A 29-year-old Zimbabwe woman married first at age nine and again at age 13 has earned a Court of Appeal reprieve in her bid to remain in Ireland.
The woman – who is a lesbian – arrived here five years ago in September 2017 seeking asylum after claiming that she would be endangered because of her sexual orientation if she returned to Zimbabwe.
The woman told authorities here that her hut was torched with fire by homophobic residents of her community in Zimbabwe.
In her international protection application form the woman said that she fled Zimbabwe because her husband became physically violent to her and made death threats to her due to her lesbian identity, after she was “involuntarily outed” by members of her community.
This came about, she said, after her uncle discovered her relationship with a female partner.
She stated that she and her female partner fled Zimbabwe and went to South Africa and said that if she were to return to Zimbabwe, she would be endangered.
However, the woman failed to obtain refugee status here after appeal and also failed to secure permission to remain.
Now, in a Court of Appeal ruling, Ms. Justice Úna Ní Raifeartaigh has quashed the decision and remitted the case of the woman against the Chief International Protection Officer, the Minister for Justice and the International Protection Appeals Tribunal back for fresh consideration.
This follows Ms Justice Ní Raifeartaigh finding in view of the central role of the woman’s sexual orientation in her application for international protection, the decision-maker in the case erred in failing to pose and answer the questions -is the applicant of lesbian sexual orientation? and if so, is she at risk of persecution or risk to her personal safety if returned to her country of origin?
Ms Justice Ní Raifeartaigh stated that it is important that there be a clear and unambiguous finding in respect of a matter as important as the appellant’s sexual orientation, and her personal safety in her country in light of that orientation.
Ms Justice Ní Raifeartaigh said: “It would not be satisfactory for the appellant to be returned to her country of origin without there having been a clear finding on a matter of such importance.”
Ms Justice Ní Raifeartaigh dismissed all other grounds of the appellant’s appeal.
The appellant is a Christian and told authorities here in a questionnaire that she was married twice, first at the age of nine and again at the age of 13.
The woman said that the two men to whom she was successively married were brothers with her second marriage taking place when her first husband died.
The woman has a son who was born in 2013 who remains in Zimbabwe.
The applicant said she had experienced emotional abuse, domestic servitude and illegal abortion during her two marriages.
The written court judgment records that the woman was notified by letter in June 2019 that the International Protection Office (IPO) had recommended that she not secure refugee status and that the Minister for Justice had decided to refuse her permission to remain in the State.
Ms Justice Ní Raifeartaigh stated that as the appellant has been successful in this appeal, her provisional view is that the appellant is entitled to the costs of the appeal.