Raymond Mashamba (Twitter)
Raymond Mashamba, a football referee from Zimbabwe, was blackmailed for being gay and then outed to his family and community when he made international headlines.
In July, Mashamba caused a stir when he became the first referee to use a green card at the London CONIFA World Cup (an event for teams not affiliated to FIFA).
The historic news spread around the world but had devastating consequences on the 30-year-old Zimbabwean. Few, including his mother back home, were aware at the time that Mashamba is a gay man. They were also unaware that since February he had been blackmailed by a ‘friend’ who had found him in bed with his boyfriend in his home in Bulawayo.
As a result of his international ‘fame’, Mashamba’s blackmailer decided to out him to his community and his mother. His sister in Cape Town, who was also informed, told him that he was no longer welcome to stay with her. His boyfriend stopped communicating with him.
Zimbabwe’s Sunday News then further outed Mashamba when it reported that, “A Zimbabwean match official who recently took part in the 2018 ConIFA World Football Cup held in the United Kingdom is in an eye of a storm after allegations have emerged that he was caught in a compromising position with a male companion.”
While the newspaper did not name him, his identity was obvious to anyone who had been following the international tournament. Instead of returning to Zimbabwe where he faced victimisation for his sexuality, Mashamba decided to apply for asylum in the UK.
On Friday, Sky Sports reported that he was successful and that he has now been granted an initial five years asylum, with the opportunity to apply for settlement in 2023.
Speaking to Sky Sports, Mashamba thanked CONIFA and the LGBTQ-affirming football club London Titans FC, both of which supported his asylum application. “I now want to continue with my studies and also with my refereeing. I also want to continue to fight for LGBT rights for people in Zimbabwe,” he said.
In November, the gay friendly English rugby club Bristol Bisons succeeded in its campaign to suspend the imminent deportation of one its teammates, Kenneth Macharia, to Kenya, where he faced persecution for being gay.
The UK’s Home Office has been criticised for the way it has treated LGBTQ asylum seekers. A 2013 report revealed that some had been forced to present “photographic and video evidence of highly personal sexual activity to caseworkers, officers and the judiciary” to “prove” their sexuality.
In 2015, the Home Office announced that people seeking asylum on the basis of their sexual orientation would no longer be asked sexually explicit questions.