Yew Fook Sam arrived in the UK in 2005 on a tourist visa and never left. He sought sanctuary in the UK as he was unable to live openly as a gay man in Malaysia. He claimed asylum on the basis that he would be persecuted for his sexuality were he to return home.
The immigration tribunal was initially reluctant to grant Sam’s asylum request because they found inconsistencies in the evidence in his claim to be a homosexual man. In particular, the judge questioned why Sam could not prove any past gay relationships between 2005 and 2016.
Since he left Malaysia to express his sexuality, the judge found it strange that he had no sexual or romantic partners that would demonstrate his homosexuality. Nevertheless, he was granted asylum as the Home Office ultimately accepted that people could be gay and single.
Read the full article on The Guardian: Home Office gives man asylum after accepting people can be gay and single
The Home Office’s decision is lauded for being a victory against outdated stereotypes about gay people and about sexuality in general. Sam’s supporters explained that the initial resistance against his asylum claim stems from the prevailing Western cultural assumption that you have to be sexually active to have a healthy sexuality.
Must one’s sexuality be expressed in either romantic or sexual relationships? Sam’s supporters pointed to his ailing health, limited income, age and Christian background as factors which make it difficult for Sam to find a partner.
How do we prove one’s sexuality in the absence of romantic partners or sexual activity? Is it merely self-reported then? If so, this would not be sufficient for a court of law or the immigration tribunal to take as evidence to justify an asylum claim. While it seems ridiculous to require asylum seekers to prove their past sexual or romantic history, the immigration tribunal would need to balance this with permitting groundless claims.
Questions for further personal evaluation:
- Why is it such a victory for the UK’s Home Office (equivalent of the Ministry of Home Affairs in Singapore) to accept that people can be gay and single? Are there any stereotypes at play here? If so, what are they?
- Friends of Sam commented that the immigration tribunal would not have been able to assert that a 76-year old heterosexual is not heterosexual because of the lack of a partner. What do you think of this comment? Do you agree? Why or why not?
- ‘deportation’: the action of deporting a foreigner from a country
- ‘asylum’: the protection granted by a state to someone who has left their home country as a political refugee