Our Out of the Margins report explores the discrimination faced by lesbians, bi women and trans (LBT+) people worldwide. Today, we’re sharing some key findings from the Civil and Political Participation chapter of the report.
Three projects were completed as part of this research group: in Chile, Mozambique and Nigeria. Taken together, the studies show that widespread exclusion, stigmatisation, criminalisation and/or disenfranchisement impact LBT+ communities’ ability to partake in civic and political life.
LBT+ communities and political participation
In Nigeria, 91 per cent of survey respondents affirmed that discrimination against voters based on their sexual orientation and gender identity exists. Three quarters (74.9 per cent) of respondents in Nigeria said they believe the Nigerian government’s Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act (SSMPA) (2013) has ‘influenced the perception of voters and political parties on who can vote and be voted for’. The SSMPA itself criminalises same-sex sexual relationships, bans participation in community groups and CSOs, and outlaws public expression of ‘same-sex amorous relationships’.
Impact of wider legal and political context
The beliefs of respondents in Nigeria demonstrate the critical role of broader legal and political context in restricting the possibility of LBT+ participation, as well as the fact that the impact of the SSMPA 2013 spans much wider than its literal implications.
Women’s and LGBTI peoples’ ability to publicly express their sexual orientation and/or gender identity was also noted in a different Nigerian study. Here, the importance of moving the focus beyond the SSMPA itself was again emphasised:
‘Laws that discriminate and diminish the humanity of lesbian, bisexual and queer women in Nigeria also include the penal code applicable in Northern Nigeria […] which makes it an offence for any woman to dress in a manner accorded to men.
This directly affects masculine-presenting women […] a woman or man who cross-dresses can be liable to a term of two years’ imprisonment if found guilty.’
Drivers of invisibility
Research with a group of intersex people in Chile identified five core themes in participants’ discussions. Of these, three involved institutional violence, medical violence, and the enforcement of a binary sex/gender system. These themes combine to produce a fourth core theme – secrecy around intersex bodies and experiences.
This widespread secrecy leads to the division and invisibility of intersex communities, and researchers highlighted how vital community-building is for intersex people. At present, intersex people are hidden from one and other and are largely invisible in wider society. This, in turn, reduces the ability of intersex communities to access power and to even make use of their rights as citizens.
Barriers to participation in social movements
The studies also highlighted exclusion within social movements which claim to support LBTI+ communities. In Nigeria, researchers emphasised women’s exclusion from decision-making in group settings:
‘It’s in our culture for women to take the backseat. It is difficult for women, in a gathering with men who are throwing ideas across the room, who are arguing about something, for you to speak because 1) it was decided that your voice is not heard, or 2) your voice is heard but it will not make it to the communiqué at the end of the day.’
Researchers in Mozambique gave a similar overview of responses:
‘Coming from underprivileged communities, most LBTQ women don’t have a lot of contact with civil society organizations. When they do, they’re involved as the target group, but aren’t involved in decision-making processes. Most of said contact is done with organisations that work in sexual and reproductive health and rights, but the women don’t hold positions of power […]
‘When it comes to other issues that might affect these women, such as access to education or professional training, they’re excluded. This dynamic of exclusion… looks at LBTQ women from a mere sexual perspective, ignoring completely other components of their identity as citizens of Mozambique.’
Out of the Margins used the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals to guide their research. Every one of the goals is dependent on individuals or groups engaging with public and political issues, being free from discrimination, repression, and able to access justice. This report makes clear exactly how crucial it is that the SDGs are met, and the difference it will make for LBT+ people when they are. For more information, and to read the whole report, click here.