LGBT Communities and Poverty
The United States has recently seen progress for the LGBT community with the Supreme Court ruling in favor of gay marriage. Despite the plethora of barriers still standing for the LGBT community in America, there are even more for the community abroad. Moreover, there are many global connections between LGBT communities and poverty.

The amount of LGBT people in underdeveloped and developing countries may often be overlooked or under-considered. With such a focus on food and clothing, helping people in these nations with social issues, which often become economic issues, is commonly unacknowledged. It is thus difficult to place a number on how many people in these impoverished areas are LGBT, because of restricting laws that discourage coming out.

There are currently 81 countries that have repressive laws against same-sex actions and/or propaganda. Many of these countries are in North Africa and the Middle East, where poverty is widespread. Eight of those countries currently have a death penalty for homosexual behavior, according to the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association. These laws, death penalty or not, place further dangers on individuals in these areas.

Before the legal restrictions are even placed upon them, LGBT people experience hardships that come from social interactions and perceptions. Legal and economic securities become nearly nonexistent in nations with laws restricting any same-sex actions. It makes any type of health, economic or social security unattainable.

On top of that, rates of being wrongfully criminalized increase. Stigmas cause being shunned and excluded from daily activities or needs. The Williams Institute found that as many as 68% of LGBT people report experiencing discrimination, especially in regards to employment.

These limitations would be challenging enough for people residing in developed countries. In places where basic needs are hardly being met to start with, anti-LGBT laws can make access to food and water, education or healthcare seemingly unattainable.

The barriers placed upon the LBGT community are too great to be ignored when discussing poverty. As Colin Stewart from 76Crimes put it, “If LGBT poverty is not addressed, the goals [of alleviating extreme poverty] are mere aspirations and dreams.”

One of the most startling and disturbing occurrences of this mistreatment comes in the form of aid being provided to regions in need. There are two fronts to this issue. The first is that people providing aid often experience the same prejudice and harm that there is against same-sex individuals and supporters. In areas such as Uganda, Cameroon and Zambia, LGBT persecution has increased, as “HIV workers were more harassed, imprisoned and even killed” by anti-same-sex groups and organizations.

There has been much criticism over the fact these troubling issues have not been properly investigated and that support to these anti-same-sex and/or religious groups has continued despite such abuse.

The second issue international aid is facing is the blatant refusal of some organizations to serve and care for LGBT people in need. Sadly, too many donors and organizations turn a blind eye to the discrimination in front of them. Such behavior is allowing personal opinions to interfere with the livelihood and well-being of people truly in need. Increasing awareness of such discrimination is the first way to ensure equal treatment to individuals that are receiving aid from organizations and donors.

Human rights are making improvements around the world, but the fight is far from over.

– Katherine Wyant

Sources: International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, OpEdNews, Erasing 76 Crimes
Photo: Flickr

LBGT Community
In 1996, South Africa became the first in the world to provide constitutional protection for LGBT people. South Africa is also the only African country on the continent that recognizes same-sex marriage. Unfortunately, there is a rise in the attacks against the LGBT community, especially lesbians. These attacks against lesbians are known as corrective rape, which is when a man rapes a lesbian in thought that the action of rape will turn that person straight. One 26-year-old lesbian living in Cape Town stated that “Men do it because they hate what we are. The feel threatened by us.”

One example of corrective rape in South Africa was a five-hour-long brutal rape that consisted of beatings and strangling of a young lesbian by the name of Millicent Gaika. She survived the attack and her rapist Andile Ngcoza was arrested and found guilty for rape. Although, he was arrested his bail was set at six dollars and he escaped prosecution.

Another example of a LGBT hate crime occurred this year. David Olyn, a 21-year-old gay man was beaten with bricks and burned to death in South Africa, as a group of teens watched. Accordingly, the teens were not shocked at this behavior because this is something that is a weekly occurrence. Therefore, the teens did not tell authorities.

Due to these horrific events the United Nations has launched a program called Free the Equal in 2013. This program is an effort to create an education program aimed at promoting respect for the LGBT community in South Africa.

South Africa does have the best recognition for gay rights on the continent, but these brutal attacks and rapes are still on the rise. However, the South African government is taking steps to combat the hate crimes and violence. These steps include the proper training of officials for the LGBT community’s needs. A young woman in the South African LGBT community stated that “Lots of my friends have been raped for being a lesbian. It is not an unusual thing.” Furthermore, new laws are being implemented to send the message that hate crimes will not be tolerated in South Africa.

How can the United States help with the South African government’s aid in combating LGBT violence? The United States has been working with prosecutors for the past decade in legal protection for LGBT rights. The United States can lend a hand in the South Africa government by showing correct methods used for training and prosecution for the protection of the LGBT community in South Africa and also share the experience from the past in dealing with hate crimes.

– Rachel Cannon

Sources: Human Rights First, Human Rights Campaign
Photo: The Guardian  

Originally from Cameroon, Carine and Gertrude were granted asylum in the U.S along with their baby daughter, Eldine, to avoid legal persecution and people who would have had them killed because they are gay.

Gertrude had been cast as one of the characters in a documentary about being part of the hidden LGBT community in Cameroon. She soon began receiving death threats. She had been in Los Angeles, California at the time, but her girlfriend Carine was still in Cameroon with the baby.  Carine was forced to go into hiding with Eldine until making it to San Francisco in November, reports the San Francisco Gate.

Despite the fact that Carine and Gertude have both been granted asylum, they are waiting for Eldine to gain asylum as well.

Unlike in Cameroon, Carine and Gertrude are able to be affectionate and hold hands in the United States without fear of being beaten. They can also push their baby in a stroller and not be referred to as “witches” or “demons of sin.”

Specifically, in Cameroon, as well as other African countries like Uganda, being “convicted” of homosexuality can bring years of imprisonment. They have been lucky to get away from Cameroon, but their freedom is not yet sealed due to the status of their 1-year-old daughter. The San Francisco Gate states that, “If she doesn’t gain asylum status from immigration officials, she could be forced to go back to their homeland, where her future would be murky at best and tragic at worst.”

Carine boldly stated that, “I believe in God, I know we are not demons for our homosexuality, and I know we are lucky.” Just years ago, Gertrude was raped and trampled into a coma by a group of men that had guessed she was gay. In the United States, the risk of this transpiring again has been reduced significantly–especially in California.

The lawyer dealing with their case is Diane Kruze of Morrison and Foerster in San Francisco. She is handling their asylum case pro bono because they have no savings or income, fleeing with only the clothing they wore. She mentions that, “You can be arrested in Cameroon, and in so many countries like it, just on suspicion of being gay. Their choice really is: stay here and live, or go home and face death.”

The Huffington Post reports that “The flow of refugees will increase. Capacity building is needed.”

Even in gay-friendly cities across the country, change needs to be demanded to further assist refugees that need help.

– Lindsey Lerner

Sources: SF Gate, The Huffington Post
Photo: Kaosgl