As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, LGBT+ charities are warning of an “unfolding humanitarian crisis” in Commonwealth countries, particularly in South Africa.

The Kaleidoscope Trust which represents LGBTI+ charities working in Commonwealth nations has said that the COVID-19 outbreak and the resulting response encouraging threats of inequality, exclusion, discrimination and poverty already pose to LGBTI+ people across the world every day.

Consultations revealed an uncertain and deteriorating situation for LGBTI+ organisations and communities in all regions of the Commonwealth.


Eighty-eight per cent of those consulted expressed concern 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; while 81% are concerned about their current and projected losses of income.

The report included the testimony of 41 LGBTI+ individuals from 34 member organisations of TCEN (The Commonwealth Equality Network), covering 37 of 54 Commonwealth countries.

Phyll Opoku-Gyimah, executive director of Kaleidoscope Trust said 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,” said Opoku-Gyimah.

Kaleidoscope Trust called on the UK government and funding bodies to “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.”

They are also urged to “listen to civil society organisations about their current funding needs,” so any allocated funding can be redistributed to tackle the immediate Covid-19 crisis, and to make additional funding available in 2021-22 so that any longer-term work hindered because of Covid-19 can move forward again.

“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,” said Opoku-Gyimah.

Phyll Opoku-Gyimah Executive Director of Kaleidoscope Trust - Commonwealth crisis
Phyll Opoku-Gyimah Executive Director of Kaleidoscope Trust

The Commonwealth is an association of nations, most of which are former British colonies. More than 30 of the 54 Commonwealth member states still criminalise same-sex behaviour.

In 2018 the Duke of Cambridge, Prince William has confirmed his support for efforts to decriminalise homosexuality in 37 nations across the Commonwealth.