Traditionally, the entry points to examining discrimination against those with non-normative sexual or gender identities has been through HIV prevention work and human rights activism. However, recent research has begun to examine the impact of social, economic and political barriers and how they shape these marginalised groups experiences of a double-bind of prejudice and exclusion; such as struggles in accessing education, healthcare, employment discrimination, housing and the greater role migration plays in their lives, particularly amongst sex workers and trans people. Alongside this, international efforts to reduce poverty often amongst development actors have normative conceptions of sexuality coded into poverty alleviation policies, in ways that further compound and exclude those individuals marginalised as a consequence of their sexuality or gender identity.
We can also see that in those countries with discriminatory laws, policies, institutions and public opinion against sexual and gender minorities, it is even harder to make the case for interventions. The lack of an evidence base to illustrate the effects of this marginalisation also ensures that the case for economic benefit, often found as an important outcome of tackling this discrimination is harder to make in national and international contexts. Although recent qualitative studies produced by the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) and the World Bank have examined the ‘cost of homophobia’ in India, which are having an impact on global debates. Anecdotal evidence indicates that extreme poverty amongst these communities is even starker in rural contexts, hence the levels of migration to urban centres where surveillance from family and peers is reduced, but to date there hasn’t been a critical mass of research in this area.
Forced migration of populations as a result of conflict, such as those affected by the civil war in Syria have pushed the experiences of refugees up the political agenda. The impact this has on sexual and gender minorities is currently under-researched, but the growth of refugee residences for LGBTI people in European cities speaks to the complex cultural, social and political vulnerability they face. Recent research from Transgender Europe cites that in some EU states, the majority of murders of transgender people are from amongst refugee and migrant populations, particularly those who turn to sex work as an economic survival strategy.
Within the Middle East, the treatment of sexual minorities has become a sharp dividing line between the West and organisations such as ISIS/Daesh, who view the progressive treatment of homosexuality as a symbol of their antagonism to liberal societies. In turn, nationalist and anti-Muslim opinion against refugee populations is being fuelled in the West by a strategic defence of women’s rights and LGBTI equality, homonationalism.
During the Arab Spring, pro-Government forces within Egypt increased the use of sexual harassment and assault against female protestors in an effort to keep them off the streets and participating in political participation in Tahrir Square in Cairo. Conversely, research undertaken by IDS has brought together testimonies and lessons from male survivors of sexual assault and rape from Uganda that delineate the impact and institutionalised nature of sexual and gender-based violence in conflict zones.
Some useful resources on this issue include: