In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the campaign of presidential and local candidates kicked off on Nov. 20 and will continue until the election on Dec. 20. It’s a hazardous time for LGBTQ people in general and for trans people in particular.
Jérémie Safari, executive director of the LGBTQI+ rights group Rainbow Sunrise Mapambazuko, explains that Congolese politicians typically inflame people’s passions about homosexuality during their campaigns.
“In this context, trans women, who are particularly visible, are in the front line and very exposed,” he says. “That’s why we’re looking for a suitable solution to relocate them in a safe area of Bukavu, the region’s major metropolis.”
Rainbow Sunrise Mapambazuko has launched an online fundraising campaign to help nine trans women who ave already been moved for their safety from Kamituga in South Kivu. They now are waiting for permanent housing.
“Last week, we rushed the nine trans women out of Kamituga, a small remote town of 13,000 souls in South Kivu, knowing that the electoral period will be in full swing as we approach the fateful date of Dec. 20, when the Congolese people will be asked to elect their future president of the republic for a five-year term.
“At the same time, legislative and provincial elections will be held. This is a key moment for the future of the country. Unfortunately, it’s also a time when tempers flare and outbursts occur, while homosexuality is a highly inflammatory subject.
“In this context, trans women, who are particularly visible, are in the front line and very exposed. That’s why we’re looking for a suitable solution to relocate them in a safe area of Bukavu, the region’s major metropolis.
“To this end, we are thinking about a comprehensive solution including housing and an economic activity. That’s why we’d like to be able to employ these nine trans women in the medium term, in order to strengthen our local teams. Previously, they worked with us on a voluntary basis in their home communities. Also, in order to avoid attacks in Bukavu, we would like these nine people are relocated close to the homes of other members of the LGBTI community, to consolidate the links between our members.
“We’ve launched an online fund-raising campaign, as the person who is housing them can no longer continue to support them, and we ourselves need to take a step back in this period of political arm-twisting. So we need to act fast to keep these women off the streets. So far, we’ve managed to raise US$390, but we’re hoping for more support.”
To donate, go to the GoFundMe site Help persecuted trans women (Kamituga, east DRC).
For more information, write to Rainbow Sunrise Mapambazuko via their website.
Rainie Oet, organizer of the fundraiser, stated on Nov. 16:
The nine trans women from Kamituga (east DRC) … were violently attacked and displaced. In addition to facing grievous bodily harm, their clothes and home belongings were burned. To escape this persecution, they walked 275 kilometers to Bukavu, where they are presently sleeping outside without any resources and struggling to survive. …
In the DRC, young people are already taking to the streets to protest against homosexuality. With a hostile electoral campaign beginning on November 19, these nine women will soon face even greater danger to their lives.
In the small town of Kamituga, in the territory of Mwenga, province of South Kivu in the east of the DRC, the local community is very attached to their morals and customs, and homosexuality is considered a threat against their rules customary.
Currently in the DRC, we are in the electoral process, and the legislative and presidential elections are scheduled for December 20, 2023.
Since March 2023, the voter registration process had begun in the east of the country, and during this period we have recorded many cases of violence, harassment and attacks against trans people in voter registration centers. More than 46 trans people did not have access to registration to obtain their voting card.
The message of August 10, 2023 from Cardial Ambongo of the Catholic Church who invited members of the Christian Family Community to block the road to homosexuality in the DRC has increased a wave of homophobia and an increase in the number of rights violations of trans people.
Young people began to circulate with placards in the street to say no to homosexuality in the DRC, and certain candidates for provincial and national deputy began to raise awareness among their voters to put an end to homosexuality in their communes, neighborhoods, avenues and localities, in rural areas the situation has become more dangerous for trans people who are easily identifiable on the street and in localities.