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 Personal Security and Violence chapter of the report.
Please note that this article contains detailed descriptions of violence, including sexual violence and sexual assault.
The research undertaken as part of the Out of the Margins project shows that LBT+ people face disproportionately high levels of violence, and are less likely to report discrimination or have their reports taken seriously.
Role of families and intimate partners in violence
Researchers in Zimbabwe found that family members were, by far, the most likely to subject LBT+ communities to ‘inhumane or degrading treatment’. In Venezuela, intrafamilial physical violence was experienced by between a quarter and a third of LGB people on average, and by 100 per cent of trans men. The data also suggested that mothers play a particularly strong role in driving and inflicting harassment (acoso), discrimination, and physical violence.
The role of extended families in violence was emphasised across studies. One respondent in Chechnya told the story of Lilya:
‘We met in 2009. She was married, and she had three children. Lilya told me that she was constantly beaten up by her husband. She kept coming to our gatherings [queer gatherings in a rented apartment are quite common for Chechnya]. One day it was reported that she went missing, and in five days, her body was found under the bridge […] It was only after some time that we found out that her husband’s relatives found out that she was a lesbian and killed her.’
Sexual violence and ‘corrective’ violence
In Nigeria, almost half of survey respondents had experienced violence as a result of their sexuality, and one third had experienced sexual violence based on their sexuality. In Lesotho, 63 per cent of women interviewed reported experiences of violence or threat of violence.
In Chechnya, there was evidence of several cases of rape and other sexual assault against LBQ women. They demonstrate the involvement of wider social networks and institutions in such violence, as well as the use of narratives about ‘sickness’, ‘sinfulness’ and ‘curing’:
‘My uncle saw me with a woman in a café, we were not even doing anything. I think it was just the look on my face that gave me away; I was absolutely terrified. The next day he came to the house and raped me. He was absolutely furious; he told me that I was sick, and he needed to cure me. After that, he started blackmailing me; he said that he would tell my father I’m no longer a virgin. I was a virgin before he raped me. But no one would believe me: it’s my word against his.’
Police violence and lack of access to justice
Various studies focused on police violence against LBT+ communities, as well as wider problems in accessing justice for violence. In Lesotho, 75 per cent of respondents did not report instances of violence against them to the police, and of the 25 per cent who did, only a quarter of reports resulted in action beyond filing a report.
A crucial reason for not reporting in Lesotho is that police themselves are often involved in violence against LBT+ people: ‘Most perpetrators are police officers and people from the justice system, so most victims are not reporting the cases because they know nothing will happen. Victims have little faith in the police system, believing it to be ineffective because of the cases reported and nothing happened.’
Similar findings were also reported in Nigeria, where the possibility of being outed to law enforcement is a barrier to reporting. An overwhelming 85.8 per cent of survey respondents said they would either ‘not consider reporting a case of harassment and abuse that may expose their sexuality to law enforcement’ or would only do so as a ‘last resort’.
Out of the Margins used the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals to guide their research. These include the aim to promote peaceful and inclusive societies and provide access to justice for all. 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.