RGOD2: Spirit of 76 delegate to AIDS conference faces horrendous retaliation back home in Africa

Published: August 17, 2012

“They threw my clothes and furniture out from my home. I had nowhere to live but in my car and nothing to eat. My head was spinning – where to go, what to do?”
Only 10 days after the Spirit of 76 initiative was celebrated in Washington, D.C., one of our bright and talented African activists was deliberately targeted by his government for retaliation. His crime: He attended the International AIDS Conference and was sponsored by St. Paul’s Foundation here in San Diego.

He was suspended from his job, deprived of his salary, and lost his home and support base within a week of his return home. Both he and his partner are now homeless and are living in fear of being arrested, subjected to mob violence or being killed.

Only two weeks before, Samuel (not his real name) sat in a conference room at the World Bank and talked about why the bank needs to do more for LGBT people globally. If their mission is to end global poverty, then they have to seriously look at the effects and impact of systemic homophobia upon the lives of millions of invisible LGBT people who are often only a day or two away from living on the streets, deprived of rights and employment.

Well-educated and successful professionals can become street people without the protection of government just for being perceived to be LGBT criminals. The 26 international visitors gave examples of how this happens in education, healthcare and business-all areas where the World Bank is actively working with governments in most of the 76 countries where it is still illegal to be LGBT. No one had significantly made this connection before to such a powerful institution, we were later told. The four World Bank executives took notes and shared some of the bank’s internal processes and wanted this group to help them achieve their mission.

A week is a long time in politics
What was an academic description for Samuel two weeks ago has now become his family’s personal nightmare. The process of dehumanization — depriving people of the constitutional rights and their ability to earn a living and be contributing members of society is so subtle.

For the past 10 years, Samuel worked hard for a government agency and was climbing the ladder of his professional field. His presence at the International AIDS Conference and concern for access to health and rights for LGBT people globally, cost him and his partner, the thin plank they were standing upon dividing normalcy from chaos. A government agency yanked it away and they both plunged into the abyss of “non persons.”

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