top of page

Show evidence that you are Gay and your asylum application will be evaluated

Simon Andre Kodock resides in limbo in Malta, although his story has all the social and even legal bases to be recognized as a valid reason for international protection, given his Cameroonian origin, a country in which homosexuality is punished by law. But he has only his word to prove his sexual orientation, and this is not enough.

Married and father of 5, he fled Cameroon when his hidden sexuality was uncovered by his family

The unfavorable opinion issued by the International Protection Agency (IPA), the office in charge of asylum applications in Malta, is a blow to the 40-year-old man who six years ago, was leading a double life in Cameroon: on the one hand married to a woman and father of five children, on the other maintaining a homosexual relationship with a local merchant.


Arrived in Malta in 2019 through the high-risk route of the Libyan desert and the Mediterranean Sea crossing, Kodok spent 9 months in a detention center before being released while awaiting a decision on his asylum application.


The rejection of his request was due to the fact that he was unable to prove his homosexuality. His marriage with a woman and his multiple paternities make him a logical heterosexual. Conversely, there is no logic in the story of a man who had a 7-year hidden relationship with another man.


The law in Cameroon criminalizes homosexuality

"with imprisonment of six to five years and a fine of

twenty thousand ( 30 euros) to two hundred thousand francs

(305 euros), any person who has sexual intercourse

with a person of his or her own sex."


Kodock chooses to flee Cameroon in a hurry in 2017 when his double life is unmasked by his wife who alerts the entire family.

It is important to note that the law in Cameroon criminalizes homosexuality in Article 347-1 of its penal code, which punishes "with imprisonment of six to five years and a fine of twenty thousand ( 30 euros) to two hundred thousand francs (305 euros), any person who has sexual intercourse with a person of his or her own sex."


But much more than the legal angle, it is the cultural aspect that conditions the secrecy in which the LGBTQI communities evolve. Indeed, the communitarianism that characterizes Cameroonian society leaves little choice to its members who either follow the customs or are ostracized. Homosexuality is strongly rejected by Cameroonian cultures. Homosexuals are publicly mocked, ridiculed, physically abused, and generally unprotected.



"Economic homosexual" or not?


Kodock's homosexuality is revealed long after he is married and has children. Everything starts with a robbery of which he is the victim on the evening of his 27th birthday in 2010 in Yaoundé. Owner of a liquor store in the capital of Cameroon, he was robbed by criminals who took his financial capital.


The rate of banking is very low in Cameroon and small traders rely more on tontines for the investment and guarantee of their funds, rather than banks, especially because several of them have speculated on the backs of their customers and ruined small savers who have never been repaid. It is therefore not uncommon for merchants to carry large or small amounts of money.


Kodock ended up as a distraught man, weakened, who must start all over again. It is at this moment that Tchombele (not his real name), a wholesaler, enters the scene and offers him a deal. A win-win according to him. It consists of an exchange of services. Tchombele admits to Kodock that he is gay and is looking for a partner. He is a well-to-do man who can help the broken father with his business, and more generally support him financially to maintain his large family.


Kodock accepts and discovers his homosexual nature during the relationship. He is aware that admitting the background of his relationship with Tchombele could make him look like an "economic homosexual," but he denies it: "At first, I accepted his help as a welcome way to try to get out of the situation I was in, but the more I went with him, the more I started to take a liking and have feelings for him".


Seven years later, Kodock has to confess everything to his wife who is more and more concerned about his prolonged absences, and much more about his lack of enthusiasm to fulfill his marital duty. Reluctant to tell more lies and also aware of the cultural weight that rejects homosexuality in all ways, he tells his wife that only economic reasons guided his decision. He reminds her of all the benefits it has brought them. But she doesn't hear it that way and discloses his secret at a family meeting.


My father could not bear my confession

and fell in syncope on the spot



A family meeting whose agenda is generic is attended by all heads of his large family. Pushed to the limit, Kodock confesses everything. He thus signs the death of his old father who falls into syncope under the shock and is declared dead some time later. Kodock is neutralized by the family who holds him in place with ropes tied to his hands and feet. The village chief is alerted, the gendarmerie is alerted. He knows that he risks prison. He knows that he may even face death, if a traditionalist relative who is a bit overzealous calls him a "sorcerer".


The family reunion was held in Sepp, a hamlet of Ngoumou located about 50 km from Yaoundé.

With his hands and feet tied and thrown into the back of a pick-up truck, Kodock was on his way to the police station when he took advantage of a car stop and the distraction of his jailers to escape and flee into the bush. A race against time begins for him: to escape from his pursuers, to avoid being devoured by some wild beast.


The night has almost fallen. He managed to untie himself and walked all night to cover the 23 km that separate Sepp from Ngoumou, in order to take a bus to Yaoundé. In the capital, he was careful not to go to his home, where he thought he might already be expected by the police.

He took refuge in the home of a friend who gave him shelter for four months, the time it took to implement his decision to emigrate. In hiding, he continues to take care of his children from a distance through this friend who protects his secret and who passes off this financial support to his wife as his own.


Kodock is very distressed during this period. He feels responsible for his father's death, he cannot see his children, he is the facto banished from the family, he may be wanted by law enforcement, he may face jail, and perhaps death. "It's a story that, every time I tell it, I get pain. I'm going to spend a lot of time not feeling good about myself because my relationship, in fact, my new life has taken me away, caused the death of my dad and taken me away from my family," he said.


Tcholombe provides for him and their relationship continues, but they are both aware that Kodock's survival lies in leaving Cameroon. He is no longer interested in his wife, he is no longer interested in any woman.



Human Rights defenders advised me to show

my sexuality, so that in the eyes of everybody,

I will be what I claim to be.



Although the law protects LGBTQI communities in Europe, there are loopholes in the legal system that exclude asylum seekers who fled their countries because of their sexual orientation.

Kodock's application was rejected because he could not prove his homosexuality. He is appealing the decision, but admits that he is not very hopeful because his case is far from being an exception.

"Human Rights defenders advised me to show my sexuality, so that in the eyes of everybody, I will be what I claim to be. There is no better proof, but I hesitated for a long time, because I joined an African community here in Malta and I didn't say anything to them about my orientation”, he said.


He spent over two years pretending to be what he stopped being a long time ago: a heterosexual. He parties with the African community, they talk about women, but his heart is not in it.

Tired of faking and wanting to have a semblance of a normal life, he finally decides to come out. His decision is all the stronger because he is in a romantic long distance relationship with Roger, a man residing in the UK who travels to Malta to meet him. They have been in couple for several months, but this outing has come at the expense of his relationship with his community which has quietly drifted away from him, to the point where their interactions are almost at a standstill.



Will Kodock decision to come out be enough evidence for the IPA to grant him refugee status?


According to Mohamed Ali (Dali) Aguerbi, Co-Coordinator of MGRM (Malta Gay Right Movement), an NGO that advocates for the welfare of LGBTQI people in the island, it is not a guarantee. Cases like Kodock's are common, he says: "there is a problem within the system, there is the idea of proving your sexuality and this is something that is very hard for people who are coming from countries where homosexuality is criminalised. We didn't grow up in a culture that explains to you what it means to be gay, it doesn't encourage you to come out, to be yourself".


Mohamed Ali (Dali) Aguerbi is a performer artist and Co-Coordinator of MGRM (Malta Gay Right Movement) He fled from Tunisia where he was constantly persecuted for his sexual orientation.

Dali knows these realities well because he is himself Gay, of Tunisian origin and he was granted protection in Malta. He explains that the problem with the IPA lies in the terminology used by asylum seekers who, still entrenched in the shyness and fears accumulated over the years, use covered words that do not clearly convey the idea of their sexuality: "If they ask a question and the answer seems ambiguous or unclear, they think the person is lying. But that's not the case, this person is simply afraid, not yet trusting their environment. They don't necessarily want their community here to know, they're not ready to come out, because sometimes they're still in the process of questioning”, says Dali. He added asking “What physical proof can that be if someone is asked to prove his sexuality? Are they asking to go into the personal life of people, so having videos and photos? That is the question we are asking”,


Imagine someone who arrives here from a so-called safe country. The person is directly put in detention, being surrounded by police, by guards, they will never trust a caseworker to tell them that they are from the LGBT community. Same thing with having a translator from your country or someone who knows your culture, you will be afraid to come out in front of them.

He recounts the case of a migrant whose asylum application was rejected, although he was in a relationship with someone, living under the same roof, although this partner served as a witness, the IPA still felt that this evidence was not sufficient.


Malta is internationally acclaimed as one of the leading countries on LGBTQI rights, but asylum seekers have a different regime according to Dali: "Imagine someone who arrives here from a so-called safe country. The person is directly put in detention, being surrounded by police, by guards, they will never trust a caseworker to tell them that they are from the LGBT community. Same thing with having a translator from your country or someone who knows your culture, you will be afraid to come out in front of them. In most cases people don't come out at the first interview. So at the first interview they will say something else, and only when they trust, they go through lawyers, through NGOs, they know that they can ask for asylum based on their sexuality, and that's where they bring the subject up and that's where IPA will say that they are lying because they didn't say it in the first interview. "


Although LGBTI issues are discussed publicly and without taboos in Malta, and gay pride events are celebrated every year, Dali believes that the IPA should understand that the social pressure is still very strong for some people who are still afraid of coming out. Cases like Kodock’s are taken care of by associations such as MGRM, but also pro bono lawyers from the Aditus Foundation who offer a free legal service. MGRM also opens its doors to all LGBTQI people who have been discriminated against in their community and accompanies them through integration activities and psychological support.

181 views0 comments

Comments


bottom of page