UK charity The Pink Triangle Trust donates to an All Out appeal for funds to help move the seven women to a place of safety.
Rainbow Sunrise Mapambazuko, a local LGBT+ organisation in the DRC, needs funds to relocate the seven from an area where they have have been forced with the choice of being burned as witches or forced servitude.
All Out have now launched an emergency appeal for the funds.
There are no explicitly anti-LGBT laws in the DRC, but society still holds a very negative view of LGBT+ people. Any deviation from traditional gender roles or gender presentations is often treated with hostility, violence, and persecution.
All Out added that Rainbow Sunrise Mapambazuko needs the funds to help provide a safe place for the women to live, plus food for six months.
This summer it was reported here that traditional chiefs in the Walungu district in eastern Congo had condemned the women to a life of slavery, but they escaped and sought refuge with Rainbow Sunrise, located 30 miles away in Bukavu.
Leader of Rainbow Sunrise is LGBT+ activist Jérémie Safari. Safari himself returned in May from western Congo, where he had fled after receiving death threats in the violent as well as homophobic eastern region.
Clashes between armed gangs have been going on for decades in that section of the Democratic Republic of Congo, an area racked with violence between partisans supporting Congo and those that are loyal to neighboring Rwanda.
The latest United Nations peacekeeping mission (MONUSCO) has been stationed there since 2010 to try to restore order, but pressure is building for MONUSCO to pull out because of sexual scandals and the persistent insecurity in South Kivu.
Safari spoke of the enslavement of the women in an interview with reporter Moïse Manoel-Florisse.
Rainbow Surprise had also been forced to relocate
Safari told the journalist:
Since June 2022, when the office of our organization was attacked in the region of Bukavu and we were forced to relocate, we have provided emergency shelter for seven trans women, even though our administrative office really isn’t suitable for use as a shelter.
He said the seven came from from Walungu and its surroundings in South Kivu.
For years, they had lived a miserable life, subjected to insults, taunts and threats, punctuated by the throwing of rocks. However, that discrimination degenerated into persecution, including sexual abuse and mutilation. Servitude came next.
The local population blamed the seven for transgressing local norms and customs and for living in an unnatural way. They are accused of poisoning the fields, making the soil infertile and more generally of bewitching the population.
Their death in a public place on a burning pyre was a long-standing demand of certain members of the Walungu community. As an alternative to killing them, the traditional chiefs suggested turning them into slaves and forcing them to work on a two-hectare plot of land.
After four days there, they fled and walked 30 kilometers on foot to reach the outskirts of Bukavu.
A member of our organization spotted them while they were being attacked by young people. Some of them were known to us, having worked with us in the past. By luck, we have been able to shelter them, even though the situation is precarious.
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