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LGBT+ human rights defenders in the time of a pandemic

February 26, 2021 @ 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm


LGBT+ human rights defenders in the time of a pandemic – challenges and new opportunities

To celebrate LGBT+ history month, CAHR has invited three of its former visiting human rights defender fellows to reflect on what defending LGBT+ rights looks like in the time of a global pandemic. We will hear from a current London-based LGBT+ funder and two Kenyan grassroots LGBT+ human rights defenders on global and local perspectives to LGBT+ defense.


Katsiaryna Borsuk is a human rights defender from Belarus, where she mostly worked on promoting and protecting civil and political rights and the rights of LGBT+ people. She is currently working with the London-based LGBT+ rights organisation Kaleidoscope Trust on programmes that challenge inequality and discrimination in the Commonwealth. Katsiaryna will be speaking about the pandemic’s impact on international organisations’ work with national and regional partners and the pressing need to revise the old ways of partnership and advocacy.

Gerald Hayo is a founder, member and programmes coordinator of Rainbow Women of Kenya, where her core focus areas are building a robust lesbian, bisexual and queer women’s movement in the Kenyan coast region aimed at promoting sexual and reproductive health rights, legal rights, and reconciling sexual minorities of faith with religion. Her experiences as an LBQ woman in Kenya have been documented in the film Now You Are a Woman.

Gerald will discuss intimate partner violence resulting from the pandemic when partners have been forced to spend long periods in the same space; stigma related to sexual and gender minorities returning home to parents; and human rights defenders ending up homeless because of lack of financial resources to pay for rent during the pandemic. LGBT+ HRDs, who are often dependent on donor funds, have struggled when funding was re-directed towards humanitarian aid with nothing ear-marked for sexual and gender minorities, who were forced but unwilling to share spaces with perpetrators when food was being distributed by the government. Additional challenges have been faced by trans men who have been forced to return to their families that are now finding it hard to accept them because of visible, physical changes.

Brian Okollan is a rural northern Kenyan activist advocating for the rights of sexual minorities and against early child marriages in very conservative traditional communities. A founder of a fast growing local NGO, Brian has won numerous human rights awards and recognitions. Brian draws a lot of inspiration for his work from the experience and lessons he learnt on the University of York human rights defenders programme.

Brian will discuss how LGBT+ communities in rural Africa are faced with the most difficult scenario, as the world is struggling to mitigate the impacts of Covid-19 and finding new normal. When LGBT+ communities are confronted by the increasing realities of homophobia, Brian rhetorically asks, who cares about Covid 19 mitigation measures when you are uncertain if you will live tomorrow? Covid is real but it is not a priority among LGBT+ persons in rural Africa.

Join us to hear the conversation and to have the opportunity to ask our speakers questions.


February 26, 2021
12:00 pm - 1:00 pm


Centre for Applied Human Rights, University of York
01904 325885
View Organiser Website


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