Gender + Equality

Leaving No One Behind: The Sustainable Development Goals and LGBTIQ Inclusion

LGBTIQ people in many regions live under fear of extrajudicial violence and threat of mob justice, unable to report acts of hate violence due to unsympathetic and hostile justice systems.

On August 4th at a nightclub in Kampala, members of the Ugandan LGBTIQ community celebrating a Pride event had their festivities abruptly interrupted by an intrusion from law enforcement. Over the course of the next several hours, multiple attendees were assaulted, one person was injured after attempting to escape out a fourth-story window, and nearly 20 were arrested and taken into custody for further questioning. Officers stated that they were responding to reports of a “gay wedding”—that the gathering was unlawful (this despite the organizers having been granted prior permission). While all present were eventually released without charges, such is much of the relationships of the Ugandan authorities to the LGBTIQ community: violence, aggression, and intimidation.

For over 25 years, OutRight Action International (formerly the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission) has been working with LGBTIQ activists across the world—from Uganda to Russia to the Philippines—to bring visibility to common struggles and expose the discrimination and violence faced by LGBTIQ people everywhere. While great strides have been made worldwide in the recognition of LGBTIQ rights over this time period, state-based and extrajudicial violence continues to target members of the LGBTIQ community for no other reason than our existing.

Oftentimes relegated to the margins of society, the extreme stigma placed on non-conforming sexual orientation, gender identity, and/or sex characteristics leads to too many LGBTIQ people being deprived access to vital resources such as housing, employment, and healthcare. As in Uganda, the ability of LGBTIQ communities in many parts of the world to organize socially and politically to demand for fundamental rights is regularly met with violent crackdown, limiting the ability of individuals to break out of the cycle of poverty and address exclusion that leaves so many in dire circumstances. This is precisely why development is an LGBTIQ issue.

When world leaders in 2015 signed onto the Sustainable Development Goals, they committed to an agenda that pledged to leave no one behind. One dimension central to this global vision is enshrined in Goal 16 relating to peace, justice, and strong institutions: This goal calls on all states to promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all, and build effective, accountable, and inclusive institutions at all levels.

In situations where the rule of law is applied unevenly—or arbitrarily—it is almost always those already excluded from systems of power who become doubly-marginalized by corrupt or ineffective institutions. LGBTIQ people in many regions live under fear of extrajudicial violence and threat of mob justice, unable to report acts of hate violence due to unsympathetic and hostile justice systems. LGBTIQ people in displacement experience exacerbated hardship in receiving humanitarian aid and oftentimes are left navigating systems unaccommodating to their particular needs. LGBTIQ people in detention risk being ostracized by their fellow detainees—or, even worse, are actively harassed and victimized by them. OutRight is determined to change these narratives, and states serious about their commitment to Goal 16 ought as well to pursue necessary policies to extend access to peace, justice, and strong institutions for LGBTIQ people.

Through our long-standing work with activists and human rights defenders, OutRight helps to build the capacity of LGBTIQ communities to document experiences of violence and discrimination and to begin holding their governments accountable to respecting human rights. Trainings and networking events such as our annual Advocacy Week and OutSummit conference further develop these leaders so that they may advocate at local, national, and international levels.

OutRight also engages directly with global institutions in a number of ways, endeavoring to create a conversation and create opportunities for future engagement with civil society. Where we are able, we push for the inclusion of LGBTIQ people and promote a future where all people—LGBTIQ included—have a seat at the table.

At the United Nations headquarters, we are a founding member of the LGBT Core Group alongside dedicated member states working to ensure issues pertinent to the LGBTIQ community are incorporated into the UN’s human rights, development, and peace and security agendas. At events such as the 2015 first-ever Arria-Formula meeting of the UN Security Council focusing on violence against LGBTIQ people living under ISIL and through our on-going collaboration on shadow reports, we have brought to bear the stories of LGBTIQ people so that violence against us can no longer be ignored.

We also work around the world with national governments and institutions to promote toleration and inclusion of LGBTIQ people in all aspects of life. In the Philippines, for example, OutRight has documented and made visible long-standing abuses committed against LGBTIQ people by the Philippine police forces. We have since partnered with the Philippines National Police (PNP) Human Rights Affairs Office to convene a national Gender and Sexuality training program to sensitize police officers and improve engagement with LGBTIQ people. We believe that change must happen nationally as well as globally, and states must also honor their SDG commitments by doing what is necessary to make their institutions inclusive of LGBTIQ communities.

The 2030 Agenda sets out to transform our world through hard work, dedication, and a commitment to global ideals of peace and justice. As advocates, we applaud states for setting their sights high and developing an ambitious vision of a future where no one is left behind. Over the coming years as we as a global community look toward success, OutRight is hopeful that issues affecting LGBTIQ people will come in from the periphery and be included in that vision.

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