This November, Rainbow Railroad launched its annual 60-in-60 campaign, aiming to move LGBTQI+ people worldwide out of harm’s way while spreading awareness about rampant discrimination and persecution around the globe. The 60-in-60 first began 6 years ago in the early days of Rainbow Railroad, serving as a vehicle to rally support to move people to safety in the final months of the year. Rainbow Railroad has since continued to run the campaign year after year “because of how it resonates with people as a very immediate way to assist those facing incredibly dire circumstances”, said Eric Wright, Communications Officer at Rainbow Railroad.
Throughout the course of the Covid-19 Pandemic, the issue of LGBTQI+ discrimination has been exacerbated, not only on a national scale but within the home as well. Due to the economic strain and healthcare systems’ shortcomings, we saw higher rates of “people in countries where medical systems were not as strong lacking access to gender-affirming care, and HIV positive people lacking access to medications”, Eric said. Regarding domestic discrimination, millions of people were forced into lockdown all over the world, often with abusive family members or abusive coexistence, resulting in a particularly pronounced spike in family-based violence and family-based rejection.
The impacts that these circumstances have yielded varied between countries, however broadly speaking, resulted in an increased state of precarity in relation to lack of basic needs, piling on top of the global lack of necessities for LGBTQI+ people already, such as employment and housing due to widespread discrimination. “LGBTQI+ people are doubly marginalized”, Eric said, “in a situation when there’s an economic downturn, we also a spike in people coming to use completely destitute due to the Covid-19 pandemic.”
The main goal of the 60-in-60 campaign is to raise enough funds to assist 60 LGBTQI+ people threatened with violence or persecution in the last 60 days of the year, gearing up towards a strong push to move people across borders out of harms way. The majority of this work is facilitated in countries wherein LGBTQI+ related activity is criminalized in some fashion. “In 69 countries, same-sex activity is illegal in some capacity, and in 14 countries, trans folks are criminalized in some way”, Eric said.
An integral aspect of their mission is to expose the global lack of basic human rights for LGBTQI+ people that is still being propagated in many counties, legislation that flies under the radar in the media, feeding into a lack of awareness and action within Canada surrounding the issue. “Part of our mission at Rainbow Railroad is to make sure that people understand the scope of that and we hear the stories of how this plays out every single day,” Eric said.
Apart from the 60 days of the year where this campaign takes place, the necessary work of Rainbow Railroad occurs year-round and all over the world, specifically in the Caribbean, countries in Africa, and countries in Central and Southern Asia. Especially this year, Rainbow Railroad is looking to take even greater action, as they’ve had increased numbers of people in the queue that had accumulated over the course of the pandemic. Due to its current political climate, Afghanistan happens to be a hotspot at the moment. “In Afghanistan we had 29 people moved just a few weeks ago in partnership with the UK government and Stonewall UK, and we’re looking to continue that work in Afghanistan but all over the globe”, Eric said. In addition, recently in 2020 Uganda also experienced some fairly severe flare-ups, with community centres being raided by the government. In Ghana, we are also seeing what is considered one of the worst anti-LGBTQI+ bills in decades, which completely criminalizes any conservation about LGBTQI+ rights and poses very strong prison sentences for those engaging in same-sex activity.
Rainbow Railroad works tirelessly, responding to homophobic and transphobic outbursts as they arise due to several different reasons, such as political opportunism, or crisis situations where scapegoating occurs. “For whatever reason, we’re there to assist people out, but also advocate to governments to have strong foreign policies, to put pressure on governments to dismantle anti-LGBTQI+, and of course move people across borders, more refugees. Wherever LGBTQI+ people are facing persecution, we are there to assist”, Eric said.
Rainbow Railroad offers a variety of avenues to get involved in the 60-in-60 campaign, including direct donation, fundraising online, gifts in airline points, gifts in securities, volunteering, and more. Please visit the Rainbow Railroad website to learn more.