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

brazilian artist
Brazilian artist, Carol Rossetti, began her project with the hopes of simply helping a few women in the world. What she got was much greater-international recognition and respect from men and women all around the world. Rossetti is a Brazilian graphic designer who takes on the responsibility of addressing the highly oppressive gender conventions heavily experienced in traditional Latin American culture.

The exceptional project remains unnamed, as it racks up over 83,000 Facebook likes, and counting. What was meant to be a local project has grown into an international movement, offering voices and calming support to women.

An example of the project is the simple image of a woman clutching her knees with the caption “Ana was raped.” It reads “Ana, you are not alone. It’s not your fault. This experience is not what defines you as a human being. You are so much more than this.” The powerful, yet simple, statement offers support to victims without focusing on the traumatic event. This is the most popular image on her site, along with many others in the same vein of topic.

When asked to describe her images, Rossetti tells CNN, “I think the point of my illustrations is to show, in a gentle and non-aggressive way, that there is still a lot of oppressive control over women’s personal choices and identities, and expose a problem of representation toward women, people of color, people with disabilities, (LGBT concerns) and so on.” Her poignant description allows any viewer to understand the concept without obviously stating the issues seen in modern society.

What started as a feminist project has, with the input of viewers, inspired Rossetti to become the voice for many social stigmas. Rossetti hopes to address racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia and the like. Rossetti has expressed her frustration with “the world attempts to control women’s bodies, behavior and identities” and hopes that these images will inspire not just women, but all humans to reconsider their conceptions of society, and the realities within.

In many countries, women are generally accepted as the lesser gender, with restricted rights and restricted access to privileges. Rossetti’s images have spread to the far corners of the world,  inspiring women in India, for example, to question and rebel against the role given to them.

Today, women fight in every nation to receive the level of respect and acceptance given to men. Rossetti perfectly captures this internal dialogue experienced by every woman and gives them a way to portray it. Her simple designs allow the words to speak for themselves. Her message cannot be skewed by criticism if it inspires, at the very least, one viewer.

-Elena Lopez

Sources: ABS-CBN News, Bustle, CNN
Photo: CNN

LGBT Rights
Senator Edward Markey (D – Mass.) has introduced a new bill, known as the International Human Rights Defense Act, to the Senate that would commit the U.S. to protecting the rights of members of the LGBT community all around the world.

Markey, who is chairman of the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on International Development and Foreign Assistance, has brought this bill to the floor due to the fact that there are many countries around the world that condemn homosexuality to some degree. This includes more than 80 countries that criminalize homosexuality and the support of LGBT rights, as well as seven countries that punish homosexuality with the death penalty. The vast majority of these countries are located in poorer parts of the world, such as Africa and South Asia.

One country where being gay can land someone in jail is Nigeria. The northern part of the country is governed by strict Sharia law and prohibits homosexuality and anyone who supports it.

Although the government does not invoke the death sentence for this offense, local Islamic law often calls for the public stoning of anyone found guilty of homosexuality. Those who are turned in to officials for suspected homosexuality are often turned in by informants who secretly gather information. This activity is the result of the mindset in Nigeria and other countries that homosexuals and supporters of LGBT rights are a pestilence that society must be cleansed of.

The bill that hopes to change this focuses mainly on the discrimination and violence that LGBT men and women face, and imposes new strategies to counteract these, including the following:

· Making prevention and response to violence and discrimination against the LGBT community a priority

· Promoting LGBT rights via private sector, governments, multilateral organizations and local advocacy groups

· Creating a new position within the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor that would be known as the Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBT People. This envoy would be responsible for organizing all U.S. involvement with foreign LGBT affairs.

· The continuation of the LGBT rights sector of the annual State Department Report on Human Rights

The bill has already garnered 24 co-sponsors, including Markey’s fellow Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren. In addition to congressional co-sponsors, the bill is also being endorsed by many LGBT rights groups, including MassEquality, which is the leading advocacy group in Massachusetts for LGBT rights.

Markey stated that “for the United States to hold true to our commitment to [defend] the human rights of all people around the world, we must stand with the LGBT community,” and if this bill were to pass, it would be a significant step toward equality around the world, as well as a more progressive American stance on LGBT rights.

— Taylor Lovett

Sources: LGBTQ Nation, MassEquality, Mass Live, NY Times
Photo: Frontiers LA

In a Presidential memorandum from December 6, 2011, President Obama directed the federal government to ensure that United States diplomacy and foreign aid promote and protect the human rights of the LGBT community abroad. Earlier this month the president made good on that promise by doling out a number of funding cuts to Uganda after the recent passage of their Anti-Homosexuality Act which criminalizes homosexuality.

Homosexuality has been a crime in Uganda since British rule, but this act criminalizes lesbianism for the first time. In the proposal stages the act originally contained a death penalty clause, but after international outcry, that provision was changed to life imprisonment for “aggravated homosexuality.” The law also targets those who aid members of the gay community, effectively ensnaring civil rights groups.

In response to the law the U.S. government has restricted entry into the U.S. by those it has implicated in the passage and enforcement of the law. The U.S. government has also ended its support of Uganda’s community policing program, fearing that it could potentially be utilized as an enforcement mechanism for anti-homosexuality sentiments in Uganda. That program included $2.4 million in aid. Additionally, funds intended for the Ministry of Health in Uganda have been shifted to NGOs within the country. This coincides with the movement of a planned National Public Health Institute to another African country along with the $3 million in funding which the U.S. would have provided. The Department of Defense also cancelled a joint military aviation exercise with Ugandan forces and the World Bank delayed a $90 million loan to Uganda directed toward improving its health services. Sweden, Norway, Denmark and the Netherlands have joined the U.S. in withholding significant aid to Uganda.

The international response by the western world to the passage of the Anti-Homosexuality Act has been decisive and swift. However, the Ugandan government, led by President Yoweri Museveni, remains resolute in its anti-gay position. Despite this, Uganda remains in a desperate state of need.

In the 2013 United Nations Development Programme Development Index, Uganda ranked 161 out of 186 countries. As of 2009, 24.5 percent of Uganda’s population was impoverished, down from a 31.1 percent rate in 2005 according to the World Bank. These improvements are significant but they run the risk of faltering without continued international support.

In a statement released in February shortly after the passage of the Anti-Homosexuality Act, President Obama called it “a step backward for all Ugandans.” With the imminent fallout from reduced foreign aid quickly approaching, this statement becomes clearer and clearer every day.

— Taylor Dow

Sources: 1, 2, BBC, Reuters, World Bank, CNN
Photo: BBC

LGBT Rights
Hillary Clinton has reportedly gotten into “shouting matches” with top Russian officials regarding LGBT rights. Russia is home to a set of very controversial laws, for which being homosexual, attending pride events or spreading propaganda regarding homosexuality to minors, is punishable by law. Putin’s views regarding gender equality have proved controversial, too: just recently, Putin went on a sexist rant about Hillary Clinton, calling her “weak,” further explaining that it was easier to just “not argue” with women.

Clinton has put up a fight regarding her side of the story. While on tour for her new memoir, “Hard Choices,” Clinton recalled the increasing amount of LGBT backlash she came to see, leading her to push and become an ardent activist for the cause. “I began to vigorously protest with governments in many parts of the world,” Clinton said. “Like what Putin’s doing … it’s just a cynical political ploy.” Regardless, without a strong-standing platform, the LGBT movement could go mute.

While LGBT rights are improving in many areas of the world, they are worsening in others. Today, there are around 76 countries in which being gay is a crime; of these 76, there are at least 10 in which being gay is punishable by death. Laws aside, more LGBT hate crimes are continuing to occur throughout the world, where they are often overlooked by the police. In the past year, a study regarding LGBT hate crimes in Europe — a fairly tolerant country on the issue — proved horrific: 17 percent of LGBT citizens have been victimized by a hate crime, and of these victims, 75 percent did not report the incident to law enforcement. 

Clinton has been able to remain relatively tongue-in-cheek, yet vigilant, regarding Putin and the controversial laws he has strictly enforced. When asked if it was hard to maintain relationships for her position as United States Secretary of State, Clinton stated that, at times, it was. “I’m talking about you, Vladimir,” she coyly said. “But it doesn’t mean that you don’t keep trying. You do have to keep trying.”

— Nick Magnanti

Sources: Advocate, Huff Post, Global Eguality, 76 Crimes, Washington Post, Care2
Photo: Mashable

LGBT groups continue to face discrimination in the Philippines, and gay rights are currently a hot topic in the country.

The Philippines is a predominately Catholic country, and even though there has been an attempt for gay rights in the past, sexual harassment is a major issue.

LGBT protection against workplace discrimination, or any other form of discrimination, is being discussed in the Philippines, with the goal of promoting an honest understanding of what these people face in terms of work, marriage, adoption and health care.

In the Philippines, same-sex marriage is illegal and therefore same-sex couples cannot adopt. Over the past few years new laws were extended to protect against discrimination, but the struggle for recognition of gay rights remains.

Hate crimes, particularly against transgender people, are still a large problem. Likewise, limited employment for people who identify as LGBT  remains a major issue. Many members of the LGBT community in the Philippines feel that their physical and mental development has been affected through discrimination while in the workplace.

Legislative laws are up for discussion to help prevent violent hate crimes against the transgender community.

Many members of the LGBT community also feel emotional abuse while attending school. Some younger members want to get through school without being noticed, in fear of being discriminated against or physically attacked.

Many transgender women experienced sexual violence and rape after coming out as transgender in school.

At times, law enforcement officers refuse to help members of the LGBT community, especially as many officers are not properly trained to handle these matters and thus the problems can go unresolved or reoccur.

LGBT members of the Philippines hope for a future with gay-friendly businesses so that there can be equal opportunity for all. Furthermore, they hope for more representation in politics, proper training for police officers and an end to hate crimes toward their community.

The fight against these issues must begin in the school systems and beyond. These LGBT groups are growing up in fear and being rejected from society, and the emotional and mental toll must be stopped.

– Rachel Cannon

Sources: IGLHRC, The Wall Street Journal
Photo: Radio Australia

Since 2007, when several South American nations led the push for a gay rights charter in the United Nations, a wave of change has been sweeping through the region concerning the rights of the LGBT community. A handful of Latin American leaders have been leading the charge against same-sex discrimination, staking out new territories of human rights as they go.

Costa Rica

President Luis Guillermo Solis of Costa Rica observed the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia on May 17 by raising the gay pride flag over the Presidential Palace. The ceremony marked the day in 1990 when the United Nations World Health Organization removed homosexuality from its official list of mental illnesses.

On May 16 President Solis declared via tweet that “we are going to fight vigorously against every form of discrimination. We will pursue without rest an inclusive and respectful society.” The post was accompanied by a picture of the rainbow banner flying alongside Costa Rica’s own national flag above the Casa Presidencial.

President Solis made the significant gesture in solidarity with the LGBT community not even a month after beginning his first term as President of the Central American state. At this point Costa Rica has not legalized same-sex marriage, but President Solis is seeking to eliminate barriers to medical benefits for same-sex couples.


In April of 2014 Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner became the godmother of Umma Azul, the newborn daughter of a lesbian couple. Through this formality the new mothers wanted to thank President Fernandez de Kirchner for her progressive policies concerning same-sex unions — in 2010 the Kirchner administration passed a marriage equality law which legalized same-sex marriage and allowed gay and lesbian couples to legally adopt children.

Another Argentine in the world spotlight is Pope Francis. The new papacy’s “who am I to judge” demeanor, accompanied by messages of compassion and loving acceptance, have placed him in high esteem with many in the LGBT community, even landing him a spot on the cover of the gay interest magazine The Advocate.


Brazil legalized same-sex marriage in 2011 under President Dilma Rousseff. Brazil is the largest country in Latin America, has the world’s largest Catholic population and, as recently as December 2013, held the world’s largest communal gay wedding. A total of 130 gay and lesbian couples entered into legal unions at the event.

The city of Sao Paulo also boasts the largest gay pride parade in the world. Organizers of the event claimed that the May 2014 parade was enjoyed by 2.5 million people.


24-year-old Daniel Zamudio died on March 27, 2013, three weeks after being beaten by a group of anti-gay assailants in Santiago. Chilean President Sebastian Pinera successfully pushed lawmakers to pass an Anti-Discrimination Law following Zamudio’s death, which clearly defines and denounces all forms of discrimination.

Since 2012, several openly gay and transsexual politicians have been elected to office in Chile. Jaime Parada Hoyl was the first, elected as a councilman in Providencia after becoming well known for his gay rights activism following the Zamudio incident.

Other nations seeking to reduce discrimination in Latin America include Uruguay, which legalized same-sex marriage in 2013, and Mexico, where same-sex marriage has been legal in the capital city since 2010.

Amid seemingly endless news streams of natural disasters, political unrest and corruption scandals throughout Latin America, the fight for equal rights spreading through the region is a breath of fresh air. Less systemic discrimination in Latin America could mean less homophobic violence. Less violence means more productivity within communities. Strong communities, after all, are built on the respect shared among their members.

– Kayla Strickland

Sources: Freedom to Marry, Huffington Post, Twitter
Photo: Huffington Post

Sam Kutesa, the Ugandan Foreign Minister under President Musevini, has been chosen to head the U.N. as President of its General Assembly next month despite his consistent homophobic attitude and history of corruption. The position, which will not be voted on, has been chosen by “elect of acclamation,” after being chosen by the African Union. In a mostly “figurative” position, Kutesa will chair meetings for the assembly, including its annual event attended by all 193 nations in New York this September, which President Obama will preside over.

Kutesa’s election has been met with widespread criticism from both rights groups as well as political leaders, including New York State senator, Kirsten Gillibrand. “It would be disturbing to see the foreign minister of a country that passed an unjust, harsh and discriminatory law based on sexual orientation preside over the U.N. general assembly,” she says.

This past February, President Museveni signed into law a bill which will toughen penalties against gay citizens in Uganda, which could enforce some “homosexual crimes” as punishable by death. Years of imprisonment would act as a minimum punishment for acts of homosexuality or for providing counsel, therapy or education regarding homosexuality to children. Kutesa stood by this legislation, claiming that most Africans “abhorred” homosexuality. Now, as he gets ready to fill a prominent position in the U.N., many are wondering of the repercussions.

Rights campaigner Peter Tatchell called on the government to intervene. “David Cameron [Prime Minister of the UK] and William Hague [First Secretary of State of the UK] should be lobbying the U.N. to block Kutesa’s appointment on the grounds that his political record is inconsistent with UK principles,” he says. Yet if government officials have yet to fight, the general population has already made its own aggressive stance.

A petition, made by Ugandan-born Milton Allimadi, has already received more than 7,000 signatures asking for Sam Kutesa’s future appointment in the U.N. to be revoked. Yet despite the criticism, Kutesa has rejected any plausible notion regarding his unfitness for the role. “I don’t believe that anybody should be blocking my presidency on those lines,” he says. “The issues they are raising have no basis.”

You can sign the petition here.

– Nick Magnanti

Sources: The Guardian, Pink News 2,, CNN
Photo: In2EastAfrica

Uganda is under massive scrutiny for passing one of the world’s toughest anti-gay laws. The move comes after a similar bill was passed in Nigeria, which gives a 14 year sentence for being convicted of acts of homosexuality. The bill has come under fire from many Western countries as well as a great many activist organizations.

The anti-gay bill in Uganda comes with some of the most weighty punishments in the world. According to NPR, the punishments can include life in prison for some of the perceived harsher offenses. Simply renting an apartment to an lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) person and not telling the authorities can result in five years in prison.  According to variety of sources a group of Evangelical Christians in the United States may be behind the background of the bill. As they see the anti-gay movement as lost in the United States, they are now trying to stem the tide in other countries.

There have been reports that Evangelical Christians have indeed been using money and influence in Uganda to promote anti-LGBT sentiment and get bills such as the one Uganda President Yoweri Museveni signed into law a more common part of African law. Museveni recently said, “ I…encourage the United States government to help us by working with our scientist to study whether indeed, there are people who are born homosexual.” This issue is still being debated.

Beyond the obvious human rights tie, there is a broader issue here: the age old intervening imperialist question. As soon as the bill was signed into law, Western powers and international organizations cut off funding as well as other economic sanctions upon Museveni’s signing of the bill. It is no secret that the majority of the countries in Africa do require foreign aid of some type; and African nations are not usually going to reject large injections of cash.

The stance of President Museveni and Uganda to the delay a $90 million dollar loan from the World Bank has been surprising. Ofwono Opondo, a government spokesman, said, “The West can keep their aid to Uganda over homos, we shall develop without it.” This is a surprising stance from one of the world’s poorest countries with a per capita income of only $170.

The anti-gay bill signed into law by Museveni is one of number of discouraging bills that are coming to fruition which are both extremely anti-development and anti-human rights. For one of the poorest countries in the world, making life even more difficult for some of its citizens is, in the words of Secretary of State John Kerry, “…just morally wrong…”

– Arthur Fuller

Sources: New York Times, NPR, CNN, New York Times, World Bank, The Independent, Business Day Live, BBC

Russia's LGBT
Russia has been in the spotlight recently for its part in playing host to the Winter Olympics. Hosting the games is an opportunity in which a country can reap the benefits of great publicity and a surge in business from all the people that flock there for the historic event. Russia, however, has had more negative press than positive because of its blatant disregard for ethical treatment of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, causing recent uproar among many.

Many are quick to point fingers and blame President Vladimir Putin for not implementing laws to protect them. While Putin deserves some of the blame, Russia has had a long history of homophobia.

Homophobic laws have been enacted as early as the 17th century, with Peter the Great’s punishing homosexuals by flogging or by male rape. As the years progressed, the law extended to punish any adult man that voluntarily participated in sodomy-like behavior.

In 1835, Tsar Nicholas made sure that ban was still being withheld against homosexuals with them being stripped of their Russian citizenship and exiled to Siberia.

Of all the Tsars and rulers, Joseph Stalin was the most intolerant of the LGBT community. Homosexuals were sentenced to hard labor prison camps for 4 years to 5 years under his reign and made-up propaganda had run rampant. Stalin was a huge proprietor and believer that homosexuals were pedophiles who were constantly lurking for young boys. His paranoia that homosexuals were praying on children and that they had “politically demoralized various social layers of young men, including young workers, and even attempted to penetrate the army and navy” compelled him to have his secret police spy and arrest anyone that was perceived to be gay.

Violence against Russia’s LGBT community has only worsened. Putin endorses violence against the community not only because he sees them as “foreign agents” or as a danger to the well-being of children, but as a political tactic as well. Milene Larson, a United Kingdom-based journalist, states, “Putin is looking for enemies. In Russia, homosexuals and gay rights activists are labeled as foreign agents… You have such a vast majority of people who are Orthodox who potentially feel this way, those are his voters…he is not going to step back and say ‘actually gay people are ok.’”

For anti-gay groups like Occupy Paedophilia, Putin’s views on the LGBT community are green light for vicious mob attacks to try and “cure” them. These mobs upload their videos using WhatsApp (a YouTube like clip-sharing application) to humiliate their victims even further. These groups will pose as a homosexual on an Internet dating site or go to gay clubs where they can find someone that falls under the impression that the perpetrator is interested; the victim is then ambushed or kidnapped.

One horrifying account was of a teenage student from Uzbekistan who was lured by the mob group, kidnapped, beaten, stripped and raped. All of these atrocious acts were being filmed while they were being done, with the group telling the victim that they were punishing him for his own good. Another account tells the story of a 23-year-old man who was killed for coming out to his friends while they were drinking.

Russia’s LGBT community faces physical and verbal harassment every single day. For such a large and diverse country, the LGBT community has few allies. With a leader that will not speak out and condemn these attacks, they have nobody to whom they can turn. They cannot turn to the police for help because police officers often commit the crimes and do not report the issues. While the fight rages on for activists to achieve equal rights for the LGBT community, this is going to be an uphill battle for a long time to come.

– Kenneth W. Kliesner

Sources: The Moscow Times, The Star, Human Rights Watch, Russia Today
Photo: Peter T. Atchell Foundation