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A new consultation by Kaleidoscope Trust of 34 LGBTI+ charities working in 37 Commonwealth countries reveals an unfolding humanitarian crisis for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersex, queer and gender-diverse (LGBTI+) people across the Commonwealth as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.


The Covid-19 outbreak and governments’ responses to it – both nationally and as donors of international aid – are making worse the threats that inequality, exclusion, discrimination and poverty already pose to LGBTI+ people across the world every day.


Emergency situations have a disproportionate impact on marginalised communities, and the consultation has revealed an uncertain and deteriorating situation for LGBTI+ organisations and communities in all regions of the Commonwealth.


  • 88% of those consulted are concerned about the wellbeing of their staff and volunteers 

  • 85% are concerned about the wellbeing of their service users, and their organisation’s ability to deliver meaningful interventions during the Covid-19 crisis

  • 81% are concerned about their current and projected losses of income.


In many countries, there is often only one or a very small number of LGBTI+ charities providing services to and supporting LGBTI+ people – organisations whose very survival is at stake. The pandemic has intensified the risks to LGBTI+ people of job loss, of housing and food insecurity, to physical and mental wellbeing and safety, and of lack of access to health services and life-saving medication.


Phyll Opoku-Gyimah, executive director of Kaleidoscope Trust, says: 


“We are witnessing an emerging humanitarian crisis for LGBTI+ people as government responses to Covid-19 leave vulnerable LGBTI+ communities at grave risk. Commonwealth states must act now to prevent further deterioration of the situation domestically, and the UK has the opportunity to show international leadership in its role as Commonwealth Chair-in-Office.


“The Commonwealth Equality Network (TCEN) contributed to the UK government recognising and expressing regret for anti-LGBTI+ laws that were enacted across the Commonwealth during the UK’s colonial regime. LGBTI+ human rights are important during the best of times and the worst of times. If the government is to make good on its promise to address and redress colonial-era wrongs, then LGBTI+ people across the Commonwealth cannot be left behind during the Covid-19 crisis. 


“The structural vulnerabilities codified in laws and social attitudes in countries across the world are made worse during a crisis like Covid-19. The UK government has a responsibility to ensure LGBTI+ human rights work is able to continue during the Covid-19 crisis.” 


Kaleidoscope Trust is calling on the UK government and funding bodies to:


  1. Allocate immediate and substantive Covid-19 relief funding that allows grassroots activists and civil society organisations to design and deliver rapid relief programmes to the communities they serve

  2. Listen to civil society organisations about their current funding needs, so any allocated funding can be appropriately redistributed to tackle the immediate Covid-19 crisis 

  3. Make additional funding available in 2021-22 so that any longer-term work that was hindered, paused or stopped completely because of Covid-19 can move forward again


Kaleidoscope Trust’s consultation and report includes the testimony of 41 LGBTI+ individuals from 34 member organisations of TCEN, covering 37 of 54 Commonwealth countries.




Notes to editor


  • The full Commonwealth Covid-19 report is available here: https://www.commonwealth-covid19.com/
  • Kaleidoscope Trust works to uphold the human rights of LGBT+ people people in countries around the world where they are discriminated against or marginalised due to their sexual orientation, gender identity and/or gender expression. We dare to envision a world where LGBT+ people everywhere, irrespective of their country of birth or residence, are free, equal, and in full possession of the rights to which they are entitled. Our mission is to support LGBT+ activists on the front line in these countries, many of whom put their personal safety and lives at risk to uphold and defend their community's rights.
  • The Commonwealth Equality Network (TCEN) is the first civil society network to sustainably advocate on behalf of LGBTI+ people in the Commonwealth. Since its foundation in 2013, TCEN has actively participated in Commonwealth spaces to raise the profile and normalise the discussion of LGBTI+ people, rights and concerns and to engage with national-level decision-makers and policymakers.
  • TCEN was accredited to the Commonwealth in 2017, the first LGBTI+-focused group to ever receive this official status, which recognises that an organisation is committed to the values and principles of the Commonwealth as laid out in the Commonwealth Charter.
  • Prime Minister Theresa May expressed “deep regret” for colonial-era laws that criminalise LGBT+ people at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London in 2018.
  • The consultation includes a quantitative snapshot from an online survey, detailing member organisations’ primary concerns and changing economic situations, and qualitative spotlight sections which outlines trends using information from both the survey and a rapid-response call.
  • The Commonwealth is a voluntary association of 54 independent and equal countries. The UK’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson is the current Chair-in-Office.