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Ghanaian woman refused asylum in Israel for “choosing to be a lesbian”

Mavis Amponsah was told her application would not be permitted as she’d previously had a relationship with a man.

Carrie Lyell

Wed, 19 Aug 2015 16:32:58 GMT | Updated 1 years today

A Ghanaian woman who applied for asylum in Israel had her application refused when a committee concluded that she had "chosen the lesbian lifestyle". 


Mavis Amponsah, who had been with a woman for 20 years, says she was persecuted in her home country due to her sexuality but the committee ruled her request was invalid due to a previous relationship with a man. 


According to Haaretz, Amponsah initially entered Israel in 2013 as a tourist but was imprisoned for five months after failing to renew her travel documents. Haaretz also reports that Amponsah was interviewed in English, a language she doesn't speak, and struggled to understand many of the questions put to her. 


Committee chairman Avi Himim said he didn't believe her story and told Haaretz: "Her statements show that she consciously and rationally adopted a lesbian lifestyle. 


"This wasn't a preference she had had all her life, forming an integral part of her identity, so her claims of a clear sexual preference are unacceptable.


"Since arriving in Israel, she didn't meet women or act on her alleged preference, even though free to do so. This is contrary to what might be expected of someone fleeing persecution for a sexual preference."


According to Amnesty International, violence against LGBT people is common in Ghana with 98% of the population describing homosexuality as "morally unacceptable", and in 2011, a government minister called for the arrest of all gay men and lesbians.


The decision against Amponsah, who fears physical abuse and intimidation if returned to Ghana, has been criticised by many who describe the arguments made by the committee as "outdated".


A spokesperson for the Israeli LGBT Association said: "The arguments appearing in the committee's decision regarding sexual inclinations are baseless and outdated, and should no longer be used. 


"A lesbian's inclination can exist even if she doesn't act on it by living with another woman, just as a heterosexual woman maintains her sexual identity when she lives alone, or when she chooses not to act on her romantic or physical attraction to men."




Image: RonAlmog/Flickr Creative Commons


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