Breaking the binary: LGBT+ inclusive approach to the women, peace and security agenda in Nepal and Myanmar

All around the world, LGBT+ people and those defying rigid gender norms find themselves marginalised by society, targeted for abuse and scapegoated in times of conflict. In recent years, attacks against sexual and gender minorities (SGMs) in countries affected by fragility, conflict and violence have increased. LGBT+ inclusive approaches to conflict and the women, peace and security (WPS) agenda are urgently needed to address the threats to the human rights, lives and peace of LGBT+ people.

LGBT+ people have historically played an important role in efforts towards peace. Their inclusion in peace agendas enhance the outcomes by bringing different and often overlooked perspectives to the table. Sustained activities of LGBT+ activist groups have also led to important legislative and policy achievements, as well as providing a wide range of support to the LGBT+ community, from educational opportunities to ensuring access to HIV treatment.

I would like to question those who discriminate against LGBT+ and criticise LGBT+ participation in politics and peace. We are human. Why do you discriminate against us and humiliate us? Peace cannot be called peace if the process is discriminatory.

LGBT+ respondent, Myanmar

However, there are many structural and cultural barriers in place that prevent equal integration of LGBT+ people into society and put them at greater risk of violence. International Alert’s research with conflict-affected LGBT+ communities in Nepal and Myanmar finds that:

  • LGBT+ people face discrimination and barriers to accessing basic rights as citizens of their countries due to their gender identity, including voting rights, non-discriminatory laws, healthcare, marriage, education, justice and even representation in national statistics.
  • A lack of acceptance of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities leads to social stigma, violence and exclusion from the state, family and society, causing physical and psychological harm.
  • The dominance of heterosexual cisgender men in decision-making combined with gender-stereotyping discriminatory attitudes and values in different societies means LGBT+ people cannot participate equally in decision-making and public life.
  • The credibility and credentials of LGBT+ people are often overlooked due to stigma, which means they struggle to access economic opportunities, especially in the formal sector, education and even with property rights.

Women and the LGBT+ community share similar experiences of discrimination, violence and exclusion, which are embedded in patriarchal norms and values and unequal gender power relations. Their issues are interconnected, yet the WPS agenda almost entirely focuses on cisgender heterosexual women. An inclusive ‘gender, peace and security’ agenda that strives to end marginalisation and violence against people based on traditional gender roles could enhance the agenda and be game-changing for those currently excluded from conversations and decisions on peace and security.

LGBT+ people and women both have similar struggles. Both are fighting for their identification, inclusiveness, participation and equality. Stigma and violence are often common for both. Although violence against LGBTIQ gets overshadowed by violence against women, but their intensity is higher than in women.

Gender expert, Bagmati province, Nepal

Our recommendations

This report recommends ten priority actions for national governments, international donors and agencies and civil society to make peace and security agendas more inclusive of LGBT+ people. These include:

  • supporting collaboration between LGBT+ and women’s rights movements to enhance the gender, peace and security agenda;
  • supporting and developing programmes around LGBT+ inclusion in families and society, schools, healthcare and governance;
  • closing the data gap on LGBT+ experience and investing in a better understanding of violence towards LGBT+ people; and
  • including LGBT+ rights in all WPS national action plans.

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