A humanitarian crisis is unfolding across the Commonwealth as governments’ response to coronavirus is leaving LGBT+ people in grave danger
LGBT+ charities in 37 Commonwealth countries are urgently warning of an “unfolding humanitarian crisis” for LGBT+ people as a direct result of the pandemic.
Coronavirus is having a disproportionate impact on marginalised communities, and governments’ responses to the crisis are heightening the levels of inequality, exclusion, discrimination and poverty that LGBT+ people already experience every day.
A combination of job loss, housing and food insecurity, lack of physical and mental wellbeing and safety, lack of access to health services and life-saving medication are combining to create a rapidly deteriorating situation for the international LGBT+ community.
For example in Pakistan, trans people have been excluded from government-organised relief efforts and left to fend for themselves as NGOs stop working.
And in Uganda, 19 LGBT+ people were arrested in a homeless shelter and charged under the pretext of committing “a negligent act likely to spread infection” of coronavirus.
Charities like these which cater to LGBT+ are few in many Commonwealth countries, and they say their very survival is now at stake.
Of a total of of 34 charities consulted by the Kaleidoscope Trust, 85 per cent were concerned for the wellbeing of their service users and doubted their organisation’s ability to deliver meaningful interventions during the coronavirus crisis.
Eighty-eight per cent said they were concerned for the wellbeing of their staff and volunteers, while a further 81 per cent were worried about their current and projected losses of income.
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“We are witnessing an emerging humanitarian crisis for LGBT+ people as government responses to COVID-19 leave vulnerable LGBT+ communities at grave risk,” said Phyll Opoku-Gyimah, executive director of Kaleidoscope Trust.
“Commonwealth states must act now to prevent further deterioration of the situation domestically, and the UK has the opportunity to show international leadership in its role as Commonwealth Chair-in-Office.”
She warned the UK not to leave LGBT+ people behind in the pandemic, urging the government to “make good on its promise” to redress the wrongs inflicted upon the LGBT+ community as a result of British colonial-era laws.
“The structural vulnerabilities codified in laws and social attitudes in countries across the world are made worse during a crisis like COVID-19. The UK government has a responsibility to ensure LGBT+ human rights work is able to continue during the COVID-19 crisis.”
Kaleidoscope Trust is calling on Boris Johnson to allocate immediate relief funding for grassroots activists and organisations, with additional funding to allow longer-term projects to continue again after the pandemic ends.