A landmark ruling has seen a person granted refugee status on the basis of their non-binary gender identity for the first time. Equality activists have welcomed the judgement and hope it will make it easier for non-binary people to find a safe home in Britain.
Arthur Britney Joestar, aged 29, fled El Salvador three years ago after suffering abuse on a daily basis in their home country. They described how people would throw bags of rubbish and urine at them simply because of who they were.
In a separate incident, they were stopped by police who asked about the colour of their hair and went on to claim ‘it wasn’t normal.’ One of the policemen punched them on the chest, pushed them to the ground and said they ‘wanted to teach Joestar how to be a man.’
“I’m not sure what was worse, the attack or when I was just left there and no one came to help me,” Joestar explained. “I had a lot of bruises, my arms were bleeding and I was crying. But no one cared. It was really terrifying.”
Because of frequent attacks and murders in El Salvador, the average life expectancy of minority groups can be substantially lower than that of the general population.
One of the policemen punched them on the chest, pushed them to the ground and said they ‘wanted to teach Joestar how to be a man.’
Joestar, who has settled in Liverpool, had previously had their applications for asylum rejected twice. At their recent appeal hearing, the judge criticised an earlier decision that the Salvadoran police attack did not amount to persecution.
“It was a physical assault, by the police, motivated by nothing other than homophobia,” Judge Bruce claimed. “Five minutes is a long time to be beaten. I do not doubt that it was for the appellant a terrifying experience.
“Having had regard to the country, background evidence, and the evidence personally relating to the appellant, it follows that the appeal must be allowed,” she concluded. The judge also criticised the use of the pronoun ‘he’ in previous hearings.
Because of frequent attacks and murders in El Salvador, the average life expectancy of minority groups can be substantially lower than that of the general population
“The way the judge handled the case, she just understood me,” Joestar told the Guardian. “All the tiny details, she saw the whole picture. At the end, she turned to look at me and started speaking to me in Spanish, to tell me she granted me the right to stay in this country and the right to be who I want to be. I just started to cry. I felt like I was born again.”
In a recent case in Joestar’s home country, three police officers were each sentenced to over 20 years in jail after being convicted of the murder of Camila Díaz Córdova. It was the first time anyone had been found guilty of a hate crime against a transgender woman in El Salvador.