National

Bilingual guidebook to help LGBT community in natural disasters

Kyodo

A bilingual guideline designed for sexual minorities during times of natural disasters has been published in a bid to raise public awareness about problems they may face at emergency shelters.

Titled “Rainbow Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Guide,” the leaflet, written in Japanese and English, lists struggles sexual minorities may encounter, as well as possible measures to be taken by individuals and municipalities offering help at shelters.

The book was jointly published by Kochi Help Desk, a nonprofit organization based in Konan, Kochi Prefecture, and Iwate Rainbow Network, a group based in Morioka, Iwate Prefecture.

The prefectural governments of Kochi and Iwate and local social welfare councils have been distributing the leaflet since last month.

“I wanted the public to be aware of what kind of trouble sexual minorities would face during emergencies,” said Yukari Hamaguchi, 59, who heads Kochi Help Desk.

Some possible struggles listed in the guidebook include: “I have evacuated with my same-sex partner. Will our privacy at an emergency shelter be guaranteed?”

Also: “I wonder if I might be harassed when I go ask for sanitary pads, underwear, razors or other gender-specified relief supplies due to my gender identity or gender expression,” and “Gender-specified facilities such as temporary toilets, bath equipment and dressing rooms are not accessible to me at emergency shelters.”

To address such concerns, the leaflet offers advice such as “make filling in a gender column optional,” “have nongender-specified and disability-access toilets in addition to gender-specified toilet units” and “allocate some time in a day for individual use of dressing rooms and bathing equipment.”

The guideline points out that it is important for aid workers to know that some people might hesitate to ask for relief supplies because of gender identity. It urges shelter operators to have a system where volunteer or aid workers can pass supplies individually to those who need the support.

The two organizations came together during a nationwide meeting of LGBT groups in 2013. Iwate Rainbow Network shared its experience of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in the Tohoku region with people from Kochi, which has been identified as a region vulnerable to a Nankai Trough quake.

“Peculiar kinds of correspondence are required during disasters. I’d like to increase people’s awareness with this guideline,” said Azusa Yamashita, 33, the leader of Iwate Rainbow Network.

The guideline is available for download via both organizations’ websites. It has also been provided by request to medical personnel supporting the victims of the recent earthquakes in Kumamoto Prefecture.

To download the guideline, visit www.kae764.wix.com/help.

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