LGBT Afghans and people who do not conform to rigid gender norms in Afghanistan have faced an increasingly desperate situation and grave threats to their safety and lives under the Taliban, Human Rights Watch and OutRight Action International said in a new report.

The 43-page report, “‘Even If You Go to the Skies, We’ll Find You’: LGBT People in Afghanistan After the Taliban Takeover,” is based on 60 interviews with LGBT Afghans.

Many reported that Taliban members attacked or threatened them because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Others reported abuse from family members, neighbors, and romantic partners who now support the Taliban or believed they had to act against LGBT people close to them to ensure their own safety, according to the Human Rights Watch.

Afghanistan LGBT People are in Danger youtu.be

Some queer Afghans fled their homes from attacks by Taliban members or their supporters pursuing them because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

“We spoke with LGBT Afghans who have survived gang rape, mob attacks, or have been hunted by their own family members who joined the Taliban, and they have no hope that state institutions will protect them,” said J. Lester Feder, senior fellow for emergency research at OutRight Action International.

“For those LGBT people who want to flee the country, there are few good options; most of Afghanistan's neighbors also criminalize same-sex relations. It is difficult to overstate how devastating – and terrifying – the return of Taliban rule has been for LGBT Afghans.”

READ THE FULL REPORT HERE.

It comes as human rights advocacy groups and LGBTQ rights watchdogs around the world issued warnings that the situation in Afghanistan following the Taliban's coup will lead to increased persecution of LGBTQ+ people there.

“As Afghanistan falls to the Taliban, members of the LGBTIQ community are among those at greatest risk of suffering under Taliban rule," tweeted the Organization for Migration, Refuge and Asylum. “The international community must act quickly and decisively to aid all those fleeing persecution."

Founder and director of MOSAIC, a Lebanon-based advocacy group that works in the Middle East and North Africa, Charbel Maydaa told the Washington Blade that the Taliban can use Sharia law to target LGBTQ people and consolidate power.

Under the Taliban, Sharia Law will override other laws and persecute homosexuality

While Maydaa noted that the incoming Taliban may want “to look good in front of the international community," how they rule their country on the ground is another matter.

Maydaa said three female academics with whom he has worked “disappeared" five days ago. “We lost contact with many people there," said Maydaa. “We don't know what's happening. They're not online or they are really afraid to talk on Facebook."

According to Maydaa ILGA Asia is currently working to find shelters for LGBTQ people in Afghanistan before they flee the country. Maydaa added ILGA Asia is also “trying to advocate for some governments" to “literally rescue them."

ILGA Asia posted a statement on Aug. 17: "Without a doubt, women and the progressive civil society, along with the LGBT community, leading activists, and Afghanistan's civil society in general will be severely harmed by this rapid and unjust cataclysm in the most brutal way possible. We are also concerned for innocent people who are now forced to live in the shadows facing the fear of Taliban's threats. The International community is absolutely responsible for this situation."

Rainbow Railroad, a global nonprofit that aims to help LGBTQ people facing persecution escape their home countries, also issued a statement on the situation which they anticipate will lead to many LGBTQ Afghanis seeking international asylum.

"There is great worry that the return of the Taliban will mean the return of grave human rights abuses, including the loss of basic human rights for women and girls, more gender-based violence and the extreme persecution of LGBTQI+ people," said the statement.

"Afghanistan already is not a safe place to be LGBTQI+. According to the U.S. State Department, public attitudes across the diversity of Afghan society towards LGBTQI+ people are extremely negative, which leads members of the LGBTQ+ community to keep their gender identity and sexual orientation a secret in fear of harassment, intimidation, persecution, and death. Now, with the return of the Taliban, there is understandable fear that the situation will worsen.

Rainbow Railroad is concerned that the return to power of the Taliban will lead to instances of extreme violence directed at members of the LGBTQI+ community in Afghanistan. And although it remains to be seen how the Taliban will respond to international pressure to uphold human rights, early signs are not encouraging. Just last month, a Taliban judge threatened that gay men will be crushed to death by toppling walls onto them should the group regain control of Afghanistan."

It comes as thousands of people attempted to flee Afghanistan this week as Taliban forces gained control of the country, centered in the capital city of Kabul on Aug. 15.

At least 400,000 Afghans have been forcibly displaced this year, according to the United Nations. On Aug. 13 Canada pledged to resettle 20,000 minority Afghans who might be targeted by the Taliban. The U.S. also announced on Aug. 17 that it will allocate $500 million to allow for an increase in Afghan refugees.

Afghanistan's Constitution establishes Sharia law as a precursor to all other laws, allowing for religious interpretations by the State to prohibit and punish consensual same-sex sexual activity.

Photo by Sara Dubler on Unsplash

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LGBTQ+ Healthcare Issues

The Dobbs decision, otherwise known as the court case that overturned Roe v. Wade, has resulted in confusing medical situations for many patients. On top of affecting access to abortions for straight, cisgender women, it presents heightened risks for LGBTQ+ healthcare as a whole. Flipping the switch on reproductive rights and privacy rights is a far-reaching act that makes quality care harder to find for an already underserved community.

As the fight against the Dobbs decision continues, it’s important to shed light on the full breadth of its impact. We’ll discuss specific ways that the decision can affect LGBTQ+ healthcare and offer strategies for overcoming these challenges.

How the Right to Bodily Privacy Affects LGBTQ+ Healthcare

When the original Roe v. Wade decision was made, the bodily privacy of people across the United States was protected. Now that bodily autonomy is no longer guaranteed, the LGBTQ+ community must brace itself for a potential loss of healthcare rights beyond abortions. This includes services like feminizing and masculinizing hormone therapy (particularly for transgender youth) that conservative lawmakers have been fighting against this year, as well as transition-related procedures. Without privacy, gender-affirming care may be difficult to access without documentation of sex as “proof” of gender.

As essential services for the LGBTQ+ community become more difficult to access, perhaps the most immediate effect we’ll see is eroding trust between healthcare providers and LGBTQ+ patients. When providers aren’t working in the best interest of patients — just like in cases of children and rape victims denied abortions — patients may further avoid preventative care in a community that already faces discrimination in doctor’s offices.

The Dobbs Decision Isn’t Just a Women’s Issue

While the Dobbs decision is often framed as a women's issue — specifically, one that affects cisgender women — it impacts the transgender and non-binary community just as much. All people who are capable of carrying a pregnancy to term have lost at least some ability to choose whether or not to give birth in the U.S.

For transgender and non-binary individuals, this decision comes with the added complexity of body dysmorphia. Without abortion rights, pregnant trans men and some non-binary people may be forced to see their bodies change, and be treated as women by healthcare providers and society as a result.

The Dobbs decision also opens up the possibility for government bodies to determine when life begins — and perhaps even to add legal protections for zygotes and embryos. This puts contraceptives at risk, which could make it more difficult to access gender-affirming care while getting the right contraceptives based on sex for LGBTQ+ individuals.

Overturning Reproductive Rights Puts IVF at Risk

Queer couples that dream of having their own children often have limited options beyond adoption. One such option is in vitro fertilization, or IVF, which involves implanting a fertilized egg into a uterus.

While IVF isn’t directly affected by the Dobbs decision, it could fall into a legal gray area depending on when states determine that life begins. Texas, for example, is already barring abortions as early as six weeks. To reduce embryo destruction, which often occurs when patients no longer want more children, limits could be placed on the number of eggs that can be frozen at once.

Any restrictions on IVF will also affect the availability of surrogacy as an option for building a family.

How Can LGBTQ+ Individuals Overcome Healthcare Barriers?

While the Dobbs decision may primarily impact abortion rights today, its potential to worsen LGBTQ+ healthcare as a whole is jarring. So how can the community be prepared?

If you’re struggling to find LGBTQ+-friendly providers near you, using telemedicine now can be an incredibly effective way to start developing strong relationships with far-away healthcare professionals. Telemedicine eliminates the barrier of geography and can be especially helpful for accessing inclusive primary care and therapy. Be sure to check if your insurance provider covers telemedicine.

If you’re seriously concerned about healthcare access in your area — especially if the Dobbs decision affects your whole state or you need regular in-person services that may be at risk — it may be time to consider moving now. While not everyone has the privilege to do so, relocating gives you the ability to settle in areas where lawmakers better serve your needs. However, this decision shouldn’t be taken lightly, so preparing and making progress on a moving checklist now can help you avoid issues later.

The Dobbs Decision Isn’t LGBTQ+-Friendly

The Supreme Court of the United States has proven the power of its conservative majority with the overturning of Roe v. Wade. However, the effects of the Dobbs decision don’t stop at affecting cisgender women’s abortion rights. In states with bans, it also leads to forced birth for trans men and non-binary individuals. Plus, the Dobbs decision increases the risk of other rights, like hormone therapy and IVF, being taken away.

Taking steps now, whether it’s choosing a virtual provider or considering a move, can help you improve your healthcare situation in the future.