International News: August 27, 2021

GoFundMe will not release the money raised during a campaign for LGBT+ Afghans “due to Taliban control.”

Desperate LGBT+ Afghans can’t access money raised for them “due to Taliban control”

Queer Afghans living in the U.S. created a GoFundMe account to aid LGBT+ people in Afghanistan, raising more than $45,000 to help. But GoFundMe can no longer release the funds “due to Taliban control.”

According to a report from Buzzfeed News, when the fundraisers tried to access the funds, GoFundMe would not release the money and suggested donating the funds to a multinational charity or non-profit, such as Doctors Without Borders, UNICEF, Concern Worldwide, and Keeping Our Promise, instead.

According to the GoFundMe page, the money raised was for passports, visas, plane tickets and other expenses related to leaving Afghanistan, as well as money for food and other necessities. 

The circumstances for LGBT+ Afghans are desperate: men from Afghanistan’s largely secret gay community say they are “living through a nightmare” and fear that “the Taliban will execute them at any moment.” Lesbians are at great risk of honor killings and being under complete control of male relatives.

As PGN reported on Aug. 18, the Taliban takeover could mean more deaths of women and LGBTQ people in Afghanistan, due to the strictures of Sharia law. 

Organizers say that the money needs to go directly to LGBT+ people — that they are not going to be helped as easily or readily by NGOs as “these are not ‘out and proud people’” due to the social strictures in Afghanistan. Organizer Bobuq Sayed said many are hiding their sexuality in fear of being targeted and killed by the Taliban.

“In Afghanistan, there has never been a shortage of aid,” Sayed told BuzzFeed. “The problem is not these charities’ presence there, the problem is [money] not reaching individuals in need.”

“We put our names and accessed our networks to fundraise on behalf of us as individuals. We didn’t fundraise for UNICEF, we didn’t fundraise for Doctors Without Borders,” they said.

A GoFundMe spokesperson told BuzzFeed that GoFundMe is blocked from transferring money to individuals in Afghanistan or even releasing funds that will be given to individuals in the country “due to Taliban control.”

Senators urge State Dept. to support LGBT+ asylum-seekers

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) has written a letter urging the State Department to help LGBT+ asylum seekers. The letter was signed by 13 other senators. Klobuchar asked Secretary of State Antony Blinken to expand on a February announcement that the department would “use a broad range of diplomatic and programmatic tools and resources to protect vulnerable LGBTQI+ refugees and asylum seekers.”

“We write to commend the State Department for taking swift action to ‘pursue an end to violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or sex characteristics, and to lead by the power of our example in the cause of advancing the human rights of LGBTQI+ persons around the world,’” the letter states. “At the same time, we also write regarding the need for additional steps to support LGBTQ asylum seekers.”

The senators’ letter states that about 11,400 total applications for asylum were filed in the U.S. on the basis of LGBT+ status from 2012 to 2017, citing a statistic from a study by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law, a research institute focused on LGBTQ issues.

Almost 70 countries criminalize same-sex sexual acts, as PGN has previously reported. An estimated 11 countries punish same-sex sexual acts by death, including Afghanistan.

As PGN reported last summer, the Trump administration blocked LGBT+ asylum seekers. The 161-page proposal revamping and tightening the rules for application for asylum effectively ended asylum as it had been established in the U.S. via the United Nations 1951 Convention and the 1967 Refugee Protocol. The Trump administration disqualified applicants who claimed that they feared persecution based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. 

The Biden administration has been enforcing a Trump public health policy known as Title 42, which blocks most people from entering the U.S. because of COVID-19. But as PGN has reported, persecution based on sexual orientation and gender identity has been rife throughout the pandemic.

Many LGBTQ asylum-seekers who have been barred from entering the U.S. under Title 42 have experienced violence. According to a survey conducted by Human Rights Watch, 81 percent of LGBTQ asylum-seekers from February through April were victims of violence, including rape, human trafficking, kidnapping and other assaults.

Klobuchar’s letter asks two questions of the State Department:

“What are the Department’s plans for restoring our former commitments to LGBTQ refugees and asylum seekers and expediting resettlement for the most at-risk LGBTQ refugees globally?” and “What progress has been made in the Department’s global strategy to address discrimination against the LGBTQ community and to integrate LGBTQ concerns into U.S. foreign policy?”

The letter was signed by Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-N.J), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Edward Markey (D-MA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Tina Smith (D-MN) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). 

Canadian PM vows conversion therapy bill his government failed to pass will be priority if re-elected

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has vowed that if his party is re-elected in the September 20 election, “legislation outlawing LGBTQ2S+ conversion therapy will be a priority.” The Conservatives and NDP have also committed to ban the practice, if elected.

Trudeau said August 19, “It is not right for anyone to be told that they are broken, or imperfect, or there’s something wrong with them, and that is the message in conversion therapy that is so harmful.”

But Toronto Centre candidate Brian Chang said in a statement on August 17, “Justin Trudeau is campaigning on a conversion therapy ban again, but he’s the only reason it’s still legal in Canada.”

Bill C-6, the legislation that would ban most forms of conversion therapy, was halted in the Senate, after Conservatives refused to fast-track at the end of the Parliamentary term. The legislation had been passed into the Senate with the support of the Bloc Quebecois and New Democrats in the House of Commons.

Bill C-6 died in the Senate when the election was called, amid accusations Trudeau’s government could have prioritized the bill to get it passed sooner.

The Liberal party’s proposed legislation would be extensive and criminalize forcing a minor to undergo conversion therapy; removing a minor from Canada to undergo conversion therapy abroad; causing a person to undergo conversion therapy against their will; profiting from providing conversion therapy; and advertising an offer to provide conversion therapy.

The offenses would not apply to people who are providing support to people questioning their sexual orientation or gender identity, such as teachers or school counselors, faith leaders, doctors or mental health professionals.

Conversion therapy is opposed by several health and human rights groups including the World Health Organization and the Pan American Health Organization, which in 2012 said that these conversion programs “lack medical justification and represent a serious threat to the health and well-being of affected people.”

The Canadian Psychological Association also opposes conversion therapy as it is “based on the assumption that LGBTQ identities indicate a mental disorder,” and “can result in negative outcomes, such as distress, anxiety, depression, negative self-image, a feeling of personal failure, difficulty sustaining relationships, and sexual dysfunction.”

According to a report published in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, in Canada more than 20,000 LGBTQ and two-spirit Canadians have been exposed to conversion therapy treatments or other efforts aimed at repressing or changing their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.PGN has reported extensively on conversion therapy. Only six countries ban conversion therapy. The U.S. is not among them.

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Victoria A. Brownworth is a Pulitzer Prize-nominated award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Baltimore Sun, DAME, The Advocate, Bay Area Reporter and Curve among other publications. She was among the OUT 100 and is the author and editor of more than 20 books, including the Lambda Award-winning Coming Out of Cancer: Writings from the Lesbian Cancer Epidemic and Ordinary Mayhem: A Novel, and the award-winning From Where They Sit: Black Writers Write Black Youth and Too Queer: Essays from a Radical Life.