Research across 26 countries finds extensive examples of human rights violations towards queer women and non-binary people


This Is Why We Became Activists: Violence Against Lesbian, Bisexual, And Queer Women And Non-binary People, is a brand new 211-page report by Human Rights Watch. They’re investigating and exposing the biggest issues facing lesbian, bisexual, and queer (LBQ+) women and non-binary people around the world. Focusing on 26 countries, it identifies substantial risks of violence from “security forces, family members, and others, along with widespread discrimination that prevents them from building relationships, homes, and families.”

“I honestly tried to keep a small hope, thinking maybe it might work, maybe if I tried hard enough and stayed in this house, I would actually enjoy being with a man. But it was terrible to share a bed with a person you don’t like. It was torture to live with someone who didn’t even elicit emotion from you.”

Liliya’s Story, Kyrgyzstan

The groundbreaking report is made up of a series of interviews with 66 LBQ+ people, and identifies 10 key areas of human rights abuses. It was motivated by a lack of research and policy focusing on the rights of LBQ+ people and the immense need to support the work of activists. It identifies an issue beyond the criminalisation of same-sex conduct, looking at how sexism and patriarchal legal regimes can intersect and have a “significant impact on LBQ+ women and non-binary people”.

One such story is that of a lesbian sex worker rights defender in El Salvador, who outlined the struggles of masculine-presenting LBQ+ workers in the country. She describes how they are often “forced into precarious work with poor labor rights” including sex work. Police would raid brothels and homes with “the masculine lesbians […] treated ‘like men.’ This means more forceful handcuffing, kneeling, and stripping their shirts off.”

“Lesbian, bisexual and queer women are renowned for leading human rights struggles around the world,” said Erin Kilbride, LGBTQIA rights and women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch and author of the report. “But the scale of brutal violence, legal discrimination, and sexualized harassment these communities face is rarely documented.”

Kilbride added that “With this report, we provide governments and donors with concrete steps for action, starting with visibility, funding, and protection for LBQ+ movements.”

To read the full report, please click here.

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