Latin American Women’s Aid in London opens a queer drop-in service

The London-based Latin American Women’s Aid (LAWA) has opened a new specialised service for minority LBTQ women.

LAWA – which runs the only two refugees in Europe for Latin American women and children fleeing gender-based violence – was founded in 1987 by Latin American women who came to the UK as political refugees.

The new specialised support service for lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer women is enabled by a grant that LAWA received in 2018 from the City Bridge Trust, which also saw the organisation hire its first part-time LBTQ outreach worker.

The drop-in service will offer support for women and children who’ve experienced domestic violence and other gendered forms of violence, and information and advocacy on issues like welfare benefits, housing and emergency accommodation, LBTQ-specific services, talking therapy, career and employment advice, skills development and community integration.

Calu, LAWA’s LBTQ adviser, told PinkNews that the new service was set up after the team noticed a “distinct need” for dedicated outreach to the LBTQ BME community.

“Gender and sexual diversity, and domestic violence are sensitive subjects surrounded by myth, stereotypes and assumptions in Latin American communities,” they said.

“LGBTQ+ wxmen find themselves subject to various forms of discrimination and as such, face very complex barriers when trying to access support: they not only face the discrimination afforded to them as migrant womxn in a country that operates a hostile immigration policy, but they also often face stigmatisation and segregation from their cultural peers.

“These barriers only heighten isolation and places the LGBTQ+ community at a higher risk of abuse.”

LAWA hope to support 80 Latin American womxn

In the first year of the drop-in service, LAWA hopes that it will support 80 womxn.

LGBT+ anti-violence charity Galop currently refers BME people to LAWA’s service.

“We know that there is an undeniable demand for a service like ours, where womxn with complex needs can feel like they can seek support,” Calu said to PinkNews.
“We also know that the public purse is close to non-existent when it comes to things like this: we’d love to expand, but we will continue to do what we can with the resources available to us at the moment.”

Homophobic and misogynistic attacks on the LGBT+ community have increased in recent years, with hate crimes against trans people rocketing by 81 percent in the past two years.

LAWA’s LBTQ Advice drop-in session runs every Tuesday, from 9.30am to 12pm. For more information visit the website.