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June is Pride month, meaning it’s a time for celebration and reflection – and to discuss the work that still has to be done around the world. In countries where members of the LGBTQI people are routinely arrested, attacked, murdered, and then have nowhere to turn, organizations like Rainbow Railroad are trying to step in and help. Director Kimahli Powell joined us at Your Morning to talk about the work RR is doing, and how they’re saving lives every year.

What does Rainbow Railroad do?

Since the founding in 2006, Rainbow Railroad has helped more than 600 individuals find a path to start a new life — free from persecution. Individuals reach out RR from 90 countries, including the 70 countries where being LGBTQI is still a crime, 11 of which the death penalty can be applied. RR does not provide legal advice or use illegal methods for people to travel to safety – rather, they connect refugees to local organizations that help with settlement.

On average it costs about $10,000 to help someone to safety, which is funded through donations and some corporate support. Once in a safe country, Rainbow Railroad connects the individuals to other organizations that can effectively support them through their asylum claim and settlement.

How is this saving lives?

According to the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) report on state-sponsored homophobia, (released last month), six UN member states imposed the death penalty on consensual same-sex sexual acts. Brunei has just imposed new laws, bringing that count to seven. The death penalty is also possible punishment in a further five member states, according to the report. In some of those nations, like Brunei, the sentence is rooted in an interpretation of Islamic Sharia law. 70 UN member states still criminalize same-sex relations between two consenting adults, the report said. In 26 countries of those countries, the penalty varies from 10 years in prison to life. In total, there are 71 countries where being LGBTQI is criminalized, and seven countries the sentence can be the death penalty.

To support Rainbow Railroad’s cause, you can donate here.