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Gays and Lesbians can Obtain asylum in US on Grounds of Harassment and Abuse

I am happy because I don't have to live like a prisoner anymore in a society where no one is allowed to be different," says Gramoz Prestreshi, a slight, nervous man of 22 , originally hailing from Kosovo and now settled in US.

He won his asylum case on the ground that as a gay he was being persecuted in his native country. He was almost beaten to death in 2003 and police were of no help. Nor were his parents.

" I can never forget what happened. It hurt when the police called us 'faggots.' It hurt when my parents screamed and beat me after they found out. It still hurts, " notes bitterly Prestreshi.

Harassment and abuse of gay men and lesbians is becoming increasingly accepted as grounds for legal asylum in the United States, even at a time of conservative judicial activism, fear about HIV/AIDS transmission and increased scrutiny of asylum seekers. The government does not disclose a breakdown of reasons for granting asylum petitions, but legal advocacy groups in several major U.S. cities said they have won dozens of cases.

Homosexuality, once a de facto condition for barring foreigners from entering the country, is now officially recognized by the U.S. government as a category that might subject individuals to persecution in their homeland, just as if they were political dissidents in a dictatorship or religious minority members in a theocracy.

But although petitioning for asylum on the basis of sexual orientation has become far easier since 1994, when then-Attorney General Janet Reno ordered that a groundbreaking case involving a gay Cuban refugee be viewed as a legal precedent, such asylum cases are still extremely difficult to win, according to lawyers in Washington and elsewhere.

One reason is that applicants face multiple burdens of proof. They must demonstrate that they were abused or harassed by authorities, not merely by angry relatives or drunken hooligans, or that the autho
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