Every year on International Women’s Day we are reminded that we still live in a world where most women are left behind. This is especially true for lesbian and bisexual women as well as trans and intersex people (LBTI people) who face multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination daily.
Patriarchy, misogyny, homophobia, and transphobia are all intricately linked, oppressing and marginalizing LBTI people, resulting in exclusion and violence in the domestic and public sphere. Immense social pressure to conform to gender roles forces many into hiding and silence, invisibilizing their experiences of subjugation and discrimination.
OutRight’s human rights documentation reports from Iran to Indonesia show that LBTI people face situations of sexual abuse and harassment and abuse by family members who refuse to accept their sexual orientation or gender identity. This can often lead to forced marriages, and domestic violence by spouses and other family members alike. Because of social stigmatization and the invisibilization, domestic and family violence often goes unreported and is severely under researched. Punitive laws, such as those that exclude marital rape from being considered a crime, laws that criminalize same-sex relations and lack of gender identity recognition laws, exacerbate the situation and add to impunity for individuals perpetrating violence against this community..
But as challenging as existing social norms and legislative environments are, those of us who fight for women’s rights and LGBTI rights - all human rights - know that change is possible. In February, OutRight conducted a training with 34 government officials in Quezon City, Philippines on how to address domestic violence and family violence against LBT women.
After attending OutRight’s training, a local gender and development officer contacted OutRight’s Philippines- based trainer to tell her that she was assisting a 13-year old trans girl who had been beaten by her father as he did not accept that she is transgender. The officer met the trans girl in the street with bruises and welts all over her body. The officer said that thanks to the training, she felt equipped to deal with the situation, in a way that she wouldn’t have before. She said the stereotyping and bias that she had been socialized into had been replaced by understanding of sexual orientation and gender identity. The officer has since issued a district protection order against the father and the girl is now living with her grandparents who are accepting of her gender identity.
More often than not stories of abuse, humiliation, exclusion, and violence of trans and intersex people and lesbian and bisexual women do not end well. When we have leaders who incite fear instead of inclusion, who choose discrimination, racism, and xenophobia instead of acceptance and equality, who block funding for sexual reproductive health services to women in need, who are anti-immigrant, anti-refugee, and anti-Muslim, and who threaten the very fabric of international law and state relations, we must stand up for our rights and for human rights for all.
To combat this we must truly stand up to ensure that no one continues to face persecution and violence at any level. In order to achieve a reality where everyone is included and all people have equal rights, we need to hold government leaders to account, we need laws that protect instead of penalize, we need to stand against sexist, racist, Islamophobic, and xenophobic policies, and demand justice for all who have been unduly harmed by such actions.
Today, I ask that you help to make visible to struggles of LBTI people, to bridge the gap between exclusion and being accounted for. I ask that you make space to talk about LBTI inclusion with a stranger, a friend, or a family member. I ask that you go to an event to learn more about the issues impacting our communities. Finally, I ask that you never let hateful and divisive rhetoric and action trump common humanity or the universality of all human rights and all human beings.
Event to learn more: Commission on the Status of Women 61, PARALELL EVENT: Lesbian, bi, trans and intersex – stop leaving us behind! * Date: Monday 13 March * Time: 6:15 PM * Venue: Church Center for the United Nations, Boss Room * No RSVP Required. * No UN Pass required. * Free to the public.