The Activist's Guide to Physical Security

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While advocating for increased rights and protections, LGBTIQ advocates often have to deal with physical threats both to individuals and community spaces. With conservatism on the rise all over the world, our communities continue to come under attack when we speak up for ourselves and speak out against hate. Today on Human Rights Day 2019 we are seizing the opportunity to assert our vision for a better world, and equipping members of our community with the tools they need to protect themselves.

Each year, Human Rights Day commemorates the anniversary of when the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, a milestone document proclaiming the inalienable rights which everyone is inherently entitled to as a human being regardless of race, color, religion, sex, language, political opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

When fighting for the rights of people of diverse gender identities and sexual orientations, it is key that you and your community know your rights! Your freedom of speech and freedom of assembly are protected no matter where you live, and all countries have committed to those fundamental freedoms and protecting their people from discrimination. LGBTIQ people exist all across the globe, and it is time for countries to uphold their commitments to protect, respect an fulfill the human rights of all.

Physical and mental well-being are paramount to our work as activists, and it is important that we adequately plan to protect our safety. Here are some tips on how to safeguard the physical security of your organization, how to react to threats, and how to protect your community members.

Assess potential threats and decide what is an appropriate response for each.

Identify all potential risks and threats, human and material, create a contingency plan for emergencies, that you visit regularly to make sure it’s up-to-date. Your safety and security depend on the people you work with. Therefore, make sure everyone on your team has agreed to these safety measures.

Staying safe at the office

  • How important is it for your organization to publish its address publicly? If your organization is at risk, be discreet about it.
  • Who has keys to your office? Know your office’s policies around CCRV cameras, alarms, and cleaning contracts.
  • Lock your file cabinets and have an off-site back-up for hard and soft files
  • Your environment could be just as much a source of threat as it is of safety; keeping a healthy relationship with your neighbors is essential
  • Make sure everyone knows emergency protocol. Always keep legal aid numbers, first aid kit and fire extinguishers available
  • If your organization is legally registered or has other official documentation, always have this information readily available.
  • Always burn or shred sensitive documents

Staying safe when doing outreach work

  • When you’re doing outreach, make sure that you know the law and what is considered illegal or could be used as a basis for arrest.
  • Always have a colleague with you when doing outreach work, and have another colleague “on call” offsite in case of emergency
  • If your organization operates in collaboration with a ministry of health or other governmental agency, make sure you carry documentation of that with you.

Staying safe while traveling

    • Do not travel with sensitive documents that might have incriminating information, including on your phone and computer
    • If you are traveling to a new location, contact local activists to get up to date information about risks and strategies for avoiding confrontations.
    • Do your research about how LGBTIQ people and behaviors are perceived in country of your destination. Know the risk, and maintain caution in known dangerous areas.
    • Encrypt your devices in case you have to hand them over to customs or police officers
    • Chose hotels and venues that are LGBTIQ friendly and utilize recommendations from local activists

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Check out some of MPact’s other resources

The Activist’s Guide to Digital Security

The Activist’s Guide to Self-Care

The Activist’s Guide to Data Collection