A Nigerian man who claimed he could not return home for being gay was granted asylum by a South Korean court this week.
The man, whose name has been withheld, entered the country in 2009 because he was facing persecution in Nigeria for being gay. On Monday (13 February), a Seoul administrative court ruled in favor of a lawsuit filed by the Nigerian, which sought to overturn an earlier government decision not to recognize his refugee status.
The Korea Herald reports that the court decided there was a good chance that the plaintiff would be subject to persecution from authorities if he were to return home.
In Nigeria, same-sex activity is punishable by death by stoning in the 12 states that have adopted Shari’a law, and by up to 14 years imprisonment throughout the rest of the country. According to a 2007 Pew Global Attitudes Project survey, a strong 97% of Nigeria residents said that homosexuality should be rejected by society, marking the East African country one of the most homophobic of the 44 countries surveyed.
Additionally, on 1 December last year Nigeria passed a law making same-sex marriage a crime with a penalty of 10 years in prison.
The gay Nigerian had petitioned the South Korean government for refugee status in September 2010 after he had been caught as an illegal alien three months earlier. However, at the time the Justice Ministry rejected his application.
The ruling by the court to reverse the ministry’s decision comes after local judges granted asylum status in 2010 to a gay man from Pakistan who would face persecution at home for his sexual orientation.
South Korea is a signatory of the UN Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees of 1992. Signatories of the charter commit to grant asylum status to people facing persecution at home, including refugee claims based on sexual orientation.