HindustanTimes Fri,26 Dec 2014

Indian gay student forced into arranged marriage granted asylum in Australia

IANS  Sydney, April 23, 2014
First Published: 18:35 IST(23/4/2014) | Last Updated: 18:40 IST(23/4/2014)

A gay student, who fled India to escape his oppressive family and an arranged marriage, has been granted refugee status in Australia. 

The 25-year-old commerce graduate, who lives with his ­boyfriend in New South Wales (NSW), was granted asylum by Australia's Refugee Review Tribunal, The Australian reported Wednesday.  He arrived on a student visa in March 2009 to study for a diploma in business management but withdrew from the course after six months. 

When the man last ­returned to his home city of Hyderabad in India in 2011, he claimed that his father locked him in a bedroom and pressured him to enter into an arranged marriage.  He alleged that his male cousins also assaulted him, twisting his nose and holding a knife against his throat.

The student claimed that he was also threatened by a local Islamic cleric.  The student escaped his family home with the help of a female friend. He hid in her house until he got a return ticket to reach Australia, the report said.  Australia's immigration department in July 2012 accepted that the asylum-seeker was homosexual but rejected the claim that the mistreatment amounted to persecution.  It also observed that he could safely move to another Indian city to escape danger. 

The Refugee Review Tribunal ruled that if he returned to Hyderabad it was "reasonable to believe he would be assaulted and probably forced to marry, and if he were to refuse he would probably face more serious harm and be killed". 

"If the applicant were to return and try to relocate, this would result in his being disowned by his family and probably they would seek to find and harm him," the tribunal found.  "I also accept that he would not be able to live openly as a homosexual in India at any location as, if he did, this would result in ostracism and probable further significant harm," the tribunal observed. 

The man, a devout Muslim, believed that Allah was "his protector", the tribunal heard.  It also heard that the man and his partner, whom he met a day after arriving in Australia, registered to marry in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT).  "We are committed to be together for life... the law in Australia treats everyone as equal," his boyfriend told the tribunal.

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