A celebration in honour of LGBT Nigerian activist Aderonke Apata is set to be held after she has been granted asylum in the UK after a thirteen-year visa battle.
The celebration, which will take place in London this Sunday, will honour the LGBT rights activist after a painstakingly long battle to secure her residency.
Until 2012, Aderonke did not file for asylum based on her sexual orientation.
Until 2010, lesbian, gay and bisexual asylum seekers were often forcibly removed from the UK to their home countries if it was deemed safe for them to “live discreetly”.
But for many including Apata, her orientation could have seen her being killed.
In the states of Kano and Katsina in Nigeria, Apata’s home country, the punishment for committing the offence of lesbianism is stoning to death.
Yet when she was battling to remain officially in the UK, she was accused of lying about her orientation.
“What is believed is that you have presented yourself as a lesbian solely to establish a claim for international protection in an attempt to thwart your removal … It is considered that your actions are not genuine and simply a cynical way of gaining status in the UK,” a judge ruled.
During her wait, she was sent to Yarl’s Wood detention centre, which has become infamous for human rights abuses.
“I felt dehumanised and demeaned when the Home Office kept saying I was pretending to be a lesbian in order to get asylum. That was such a ridiculous assertion to make about me,” she said to The Guardian.
It was through her high profile campaign, persistent litigation and representations from her legal team, S. Chelvan and Sean McLoughlin including when human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell and the Lib Dem peer Liz Barker announced that they would attend Apata’s appeal that the tides started to turn.
The Home Office announced that they would grant Apata asylum in August, and now she intends to fight on behalf of other LGBT people who want their safety secured in the UK.
“There are many people like me … who are facing huge insurmountable difficulties navigating the asylum system in the UK. I will continue to do my bit in amplifying the voices of people who can only shout so far,” she said to The Guardian.