australian-faceAustralia: Australia has granted a gay university student from India asylum after he told authorities that he faced harassment by his Muslim family and a forced arranged marriage to a woman.

The 25-year-old commerce graduate who lives with his boyfriend in New South Wales arrived on a student visa in March 2009 to study a diploma of business management.

When he returned to his home city of Hyderabad in southern India in 2011, his father locked him in room and demanded that he enter the arranged marriage, reports

The youth alleged he was threatened by a local Islamic cleric and assaulted by male members of his extended family who even held a knife against his throat threatening his life unless he changed his sexuality.

The student escaped his family home with the help of a female friend and used his return ticket to reach Australia.

The Immigration Department in July 2012 accepted that the asylum-seeker was gay but rejected the claim that he was persecuted.

However, the Refugee Review Tribunal in January ruled that if he returned to Hyderabad it was reasonable to believe he would be assaulted and forced to marry and if he were to refuse would probably face more harm and be killed.

If the applicant were to return and try to relocate to a city other than Hyderabad, it would still result in his being disowned by his family who probably would seek to find and harm him, the tribunal said.

“His father works for a government department. It is reasonable to accept that he would engage the police to find him,” it said.

It pointed out that he would not be able to live openly as a gay person anywhere in India and would face ostracism and probable significant harm.

The tribunal heard that the young man and his partner, whom he met after arriving in Australia, had registered to marry.

“We are committed to be together for life,” his boyfriend told the tribunal.

The young man also feared persecution in employment and non acceptance by Muslim society in India even though in Australia he attended a mosque weekly, believed in Allah and was a devout Muslim, reported

Arranged marriages are traditional in South Asian society and continue to account for an overwhelming majority of marriages in the Indian subcontinent and among Indian Diaspora. It is common for partners to not know their spouse-to-be too well.

Most gay people are pressured by family into marriage in order to produce children and continue the family name.

Being gay in India is socially unacceptable, besides being a criminal offence. Gay rights activists and organizations are fighting the repeal of the colonial-era “Section 377” law that describes same-sex relations as “unnatural” and a crime punishable by up to life imprisonment.