Court orders Japan govt. to recognize lesbian Uganda refugee fleeing persecution

A district court in Osaka, western Japan, has ordered the central government to grant refugee status to a Ugandan woman who says she fled to Japan as she was persecuted for being homosexual.

The woman in her 30s, who currently lives in the Kansai region, says she was arrested and beaten in Uganda for being a lesbian and suffered serious injuries. She fled to Japan three years ago.

Upon entering Japan, she was not recognized as a refugee and was ordered to leave the country. She filed a lawsuit seeking refugee status from the government.

The government argued that reports of homosexuals being detained or punished in Uganda lack credibility.

It also said the woman was not likely to be penalized for being homosexual, so she could not be recognized as a refugee.

In Wednesday's ruling, the Osaka District Court said that as long as Uganda has criminal law that effectively punishes homosexuals, it is natural to assume that she could be criminalized or physically restrained.

The court ordered the government to grant the woman refugee status as she could be persecuted for being homosexual if she returns to Uganda.

In a news conference, the plaintiff said she is grateful for being allowed to live in Japan. She said she had been in a tough situation but hopes everything will go well from now on. The woman added that she wants to tell people in similar circumstances not to lose hope.

Her lawyer said that as far as she knows, it's the first time for a court to order the government to grant refugee status due to one's homosexuality. She said the ruling will be a guiding light to people in similar situations.

The Immigration Services Agency says it will closely consider the ruling and take appropriate action.