OPINION: In the face of crises, LGBT+ activists need the support of our global community

Friday, 10 December 2021 10:30 GMT

People with Pride flags march towards the National Congress to reject the draft of the new Penal Code that will allow discrimination against people based on their sexual orientation in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, July 11, 2021.REUTERS/Ricardo Rojas

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In the face of crises, LGBT+ activists need the support of our global community, writes Rupert Abbott, executive director of GiveOut.

Rupert Abbott is executive director of GiveOut

Today is Human Rights Day, observed every year on 10 December – the day the United Nations General Assembly adopted, in 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This year’s theme is 'Equality', which relates to Article 1 of the declaration: "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights."

But around the world, LGBT+ people are not treated equally; we face human rights abuses on a regular basis simply for being who we are. This is even worse in crisis situations. Sometimes our community is disproportionately impacted by crises affecting everyone; and sometimes LGBT+ people are in the eye of the storm – we are directly targeted.

The thread connecting these crises is the incredible response by LGBT+ activists worldwide and the coming together in solidarity of our community when our movement needs us most.

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown restrictions have amplified existing vulnerabilities for LGBT+ people. But, as we saw again in India earlier this year, our global community and allies have stepped up, donating to support SAATHII and other LGBT+ organisations in providing vital humanitarian relief.

The pandemic may prove to be a dress rehearsal for the greatest challenge of our time: the climate emergency. LGBT+ people will be among the most vulnerable to the direct impacts of climate change-related natural disasters, especially in countries where LGBT+ identities are also illegal or repressed.

Again, our movement is responding. Jamaica is undertaking ground-breaking research into the impact of the climate crisis on LGBT+ communities. Equal Asia Foundation is advocating for the needs of LGBT+ people in emergency situations, including in forced displacement settings. And the Tonga Leitis Association has been training those running hurricane emergency shelters to accommodate LGBT+ people.

Earlier this year, there were growing security concerns for LGBT+ people in Zambia, with the state media purporting to expose LGBT+ activists and their organisations. Swift action was needed to protect these activists, and, with our community's support, the South Africa-based The Other Foundation provided the emergency support that was needed.

In the words of The Other Foundation's Neville Gabriel: "It is really difficult for LGBT+ activists alone to take on this work while at the same time fearing for their own safety. So solidarity at a regional level, at a global level, is very important."

In Ghana, this year saw the police raid an LGBT+ centre, several activists arrested, and the introduction of a dangerous piece of legislation widely known as the “Anti-Gay Bill”. The Kaleidoscope Trust have helped coordinate the global response.

A new law has been introduced in Hungary, to ban the dissemination of content in schools deemed to promote homosexuality and gender identity, while the country’s parliament has approved a national referendum on "LGBT issues" in 2022. In response, through their Creating Opportunities programme, ILGA-Europe has supported campaigning and mobilisation.

And in Afghanistan, where the Taliban have seized power, LGBT+ people continue to face extreme persecution and grave human rights violations, including torture and even execution. There are no LGBT+ organisations in Afghanistan. Rainbow Railroad, which assists LGBT+ refugees around the world, has led the emergency response.

Through GiveOut's emergency appeal, amplified by Sir Ian McKellen, Russell Tovey and the Pet Shop Boys, the LGBT+ community and allies in the UK gave over £100,000 to support this vital work. These donations enabled the safe evacuation of LGBT+ Afghans - they literally saved lives.

The crisis in Afghanistan has only just begun and Rainbow Railroad still needs our community's support, but our response shows what we can achieve when we act fast and act together. 

This Human Rights Day is an opportunity to reflect on the crises facing LGBT+ people and the difference we can all make when we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with those activists working to protect our communities around the world.

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