To many of us, Valentine’s Day is a welcome excuse for an intimate dinner out with our partner, and maybe a bouquet of bright red roses banish the February grey. But if you’re an LGBT person living in one of the many countries in the world where being gay is a crime, the last thing you’ll want to do is walk down the street hand-in-hand with your loved one this Wednesday.
Last October, a wave of arrests and violence broke out across Egypt when several people raised rainbow flags at a rock concert. That same month, the Tanzanian government announced it would ban HIV programs targeting gay men. As shocking as it seems, sex with someone of the same sex is illegal in 72 countries around the world. And it’s punishable by death in 8.
The good news is that a number of nonprofits are working to change laws, hold governments accountable and train LGBT activists in countries where you can be killed just for being gay. What better way to celebrate love this Valentine’s Day than to donate to an organization making it safe to love whomever you choose, no matter where you live?
The fight for LGBT rights in the developing world is being waged from a range of angles and at multiple levels. Below are some of the primary tactics being used by leading (and donation-worthy) nonprofits working on this issue:
Training local activists. Skilled grassroots organizers are often the heart of social movements, and several established nonprofits are focused on training and supporting these local advocates.
UK-based Stonewall regularly invites Eastern European activists to their headquarters in London to learn organizing and advocacy skills from staff and fellow organizers as part of its International Campaigners Programme.
OutRight Action International trains activists as well as journalists and the police in countries like the Philippines and Iran to respect the needs and sensitivities of the LGBT members of their communities.
Providing legal support to LGBT communities. The Initiative for Strategic Litigation in Africa (ISLA) is a feminist organization committed to using the courts to improve women’s rights and justice in Africa. They’ve recently launched training program for lawyers defending LGBT Africans. You can give to this program specifically if you contact ISLA directly.
If you’d like to support a more local organization, the Initiative for Equal Rights provides pro-bono services for LGBT people who have faced discrimination or abuse in Nigeria.
Mobilizing and lobbying decision makers. Many–if not most–LGBT nonprofits do some form of influencing work. But some are specially focused on organizing LGBT advocates to sign petitions and otherwise raise their voices for better treatment of LGBT communities around the world. All Out runs effective online campaigns pressuring governments on specific issues like the crackdown on gay pride flag raising in Egypt and ‘gay cures’ in China.
Documenting abuse. Several organizations do the important work of documenting and reporting the range of human rights abuses faced by LGBT people around the world. The hope is that by presenting evidence-based documentation of human rights abuses, governments can be held accountable before regional and international regulatory bodies.
OutRight Action International monitors and documents human rights abuses against LGBT communities the Global South, and brings those cases to the United Nations in New York. On a national level, Freedom and Roam documents discrimination and violence against LBQ women in Uganda.
Changing norms. Altering the way society views and treats LGBT people is hugely challenging, especially in the face of deeply rooted religious and cultural beliefs.
One campaign that’s tried to shine a bright light on homophobia in sports is Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces campaign. The campaign asks professional athletes to wear rainbow shoelaces as a public signal of their acceptance of gays and lesbians. Importantly, the campaign focuses on sports like soccer and cricket, which attract a massive audience in the Global South.
This Valentine’s Day, go ahead and buy those roses for your loved one. But alongside your love note, include a donation to a nonprofit that’s working to ensure everyone can enjoy the holiday openly and proudly. Happy Valentine’s Day!
Thank you to Emily Collins-Ellis and Laura Clise for their advice on researching this post.
I am passionate about helping people become informed, empowered and enthusiastic donors. After more than 10 years in the nonprofit/charity sector, I embraced my fear of spreadsheets and got an MBA so that I could help citizens like myself become more strategic givers. Today, I use my unique experiences in both sectors to help people who care deeply about using their money to make the world a better place.