The ‘Rainbow Railroad’ Helps LGBTQ Individuals Escape Persecution

The organization helps those fleeing danger get across borders to safety and resettle in safe nations.

Jul 18, 2019

While in many parts of the world LGBTQ rights have grown extensively, in numerous countries, members of the LGBTQ community still face state-sponsored prosecution and discrimination. 

Fortunately, an international NGO called the Rainbow Railroad helps individuals in these situations escape their countries and find asylum.

Globally, there are 70 countries where same-sex relations are considered a crime - seven of which exercise the death penalty. 

Over the past five years, the organization, which is named after the historic Underground Railroad that was used by African-American slaves to escape into free states in the 1800s, has helped relocate upwards of 600 people. And the organization is growing significantly.

In 2018, the Rainbow Railroad was able to evacuate, transport, and safely resettle close to 200 people.  Furthermore, at any given moment, the organization is assisting between 30-50 open cases, according to their website.

Many of these individuals, who identify as lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, trans-sexual, and queer have nowhere else to turn. In their home countries, they face violations of their basic freedoms and human rights and are often tormented. 

The Toronto-based organization helps these individuals access information on safety routes, offers financial provisions when possible, provides transportation to safe countries, and connects them with local resettlement agencies. 

One participant from the Barbados who faced discrimination her entire life speaks about how the organization has helped her. 

“I was linked with people and resources to help me deal with the depression and anxiety that was so bad,” Michelle is quoted on the organization’s website. “Today, I have safe housing, am receiving medical care and therapy, and can actually dream of finding a woman to be my wife. I’m so grateful to the team at Rainbow Railroad for making this possible.”

Other participants come from Syria, Chechnya, Jamaica, Egypt, and Uganda. Many are resettled in Canada.

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HILLA BENZAKEN, CONTRIBUTOR
Hilla Benzaken is a dedicated optimist. Her happy place involves cooking, acting, gardening, and fighting for social justice. She writes about all things sustainability, innovation, and DIY.

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