Wednesday, October 24, 2007

'Florence and Michael must stay' campaign

I will post on the Feminist Fightback event last Saturday, just a bit busy for long posts the last few days, but just wanted to quickly highlight the 'Florence and Michael must stay ' campaign.

Florence spoke at one of the workshops.
Check out the website for more information as to how you can help:

Florence is from Sierra Leone and is seeking asylum for herself and her young son, Michael. Florence fled Sierra Leone because she was suffering physical abuse including beatings by her parents and rape by her cousin, who she had been forced to marry. This all happened because Florence told her parents she is a lesbian, a fact that she had previously kept secret.

When Florence turned to the police for help they turned her away, saying it was a family matter. She tried to find a safe place to stay but could not and was forced to return home to face more abuse and violence.

She was horrified when told her parents were planning to force her to undergo female genital mutilation, commonly called female circumcision, as they believed this would ‘cure’ her. This process involves mutilating a woman‘s genitals, often resulting in serious infection and illness, and sometimes death.

The Home Office, and courts, have turned down Florence‘s application for asylum on the basis that her story is not credible, and that she could simply move to another area of Sierra Leone. Homosexuality is illegal all over Sierra Leone and it is a very homophobic society.

This judgement does not account for Florence’s distressed state when she arrived here, pregnant as a result of the rape, alone and scared. Nor the fact that she did not have legal representation as she did not have money for solicitor, or legal aid.

Florence has suffered from depression due to the stress and trauma of her life, and her son, Michael, is suffering with her. His speech and development have been seriously affected by their unsettled life. Florence and Michael have been moved six times since she arrived by the National Asylum Support Service, on whom she is dependent.

Florence has been let down by many people, by friends and family as well as by the authorities in the UK. Her application has been refused because she could not prove that there was “a sustained pattern or campaign of persecution against you which was knowingly tolerated by the authorities…” Yet in September 2004 Fannyann Eddy, the founder and director of Sierra Leone Lesbian and Gay Foundation (SLLAGA) was brutally attacked, gang raped and murdered in her office at SLLAGA. The police have yet to arrest anyone. If a person in Fannyann‘s position could not get protection from the Sierra Leone government, then what chance does Florence stand?

I know many on the left are busy fighting each other at the moment , but perhaps take a little time out to show your support for women's and LGBT rights .

Pic: Florence and Michael.

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