Seeking Safety




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Jan 29, 2018
by Klaus Mueller
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Seeking Safety

The second chapter of our new publication Building a Global Community addresses LGBT refugees, the rule of law and online safety

“With our house being ransacked, with us being attacked, with all the news spreading… Those were the things that kind of escalated to a point where we couldn’t live there anymore.” [Noël]

“Getting death threats… random people anonymously sending you your photo, your phone number, your address, and telling you ‘We know who are and we are going to kill you.’ It is a very uncertain condition which paralyzes you.” [Negede]

- Noël Iglessias and Negede Gezahegn, Founders of DANA Social Group, LGBTI rights organization in Ethiopia

Legislative discrimination, social alienation and hate speech can all impact the safety of LGBT people, their wellbeing and sense of belonging. Addressing persecution and anti-LGBT extremism has been a major feature in many of our discussions. Forum members shared their expertise that homophobia and transphobia and hatred cannot be diminished to only the activities of fringe groups or individuals. Globally we see that this anti-LGBT prejudice permeates actions led and enforced by many political, legal, religious, cultural or economic systems that reinforce each other.

Persecution also happens behind closed doors. Research on identity-based violence has found that in some situations, 80 percent of anti-LGBT extremism occurs as domestic and household violence. Often, social media platforms enable LGBT individuals to break out of their isolation and to learn about their communities. But online bullying, surveillance and hate campaigns can also subject them to new dangers, as we learned in training sessions from online security experts.

At the global scale, migration and exile shape the lives of many LGBT individuals as well as the communities and families they are forced to leave behind. Refugees from countries including Ethiopia, Syria, Nigeria, Bangladesh and Guatemala shared their stories and explained their specific needs and challenges. Activists responding to recent attacks of anti-LGBT extremism in countries such as Chechnya, Indonesia, or Uganda reported on emergency measures, but also warned about the growing trend of Western-based religious extremists exporting anti-LGBT hate speech and contributing to anti-LGBT laws in Russia, Uganda, Nigeria, Jamaica and elsewhere.

How should we react? Supporting causes and bringing attention to a specific country is important but context sensitivity is crucial. Sometimes the political voices of overseas LGBT organizations do more harm than good to local LGBT groups. International solidarity is important, but needs to be guided by local LGBT groups. Gathering evidence and documentation on violence helps to build cases, statistics and better policy to tackle anti-LGBT extremism and persecution.


LGBT Refugees

Fleeing Home: LGBT Refugees’ Stories

Profile: Bisi Alimi

Profile: Irene Fedorovych

Profile: Pema Dorji

The Role of Rule of Law

Legal Advances for LGBT Rights

Staying Save Online and IRL