Cycles of Displacement: Understanding Violence, Discrimination, and Exclusion of LGBTQI People in Humanitarian Contexts

Roth, D., Blackwell, A., Canavera, M., Falb, K
Publication language
Date published
11 Jun 2021
Research, reports and studies
Internal Displacement
Kenya, Bahamas, Philippines, Tunisia, Global

While systematic evidence on violence against LGBTQI people in conflict and humanitarian settings is limited, local LGBTQI serving organizations and international humanitarian organizations have documented and exposed the threats to the physical and psychological safety, human rights, health, and economic security of LGBTQI individuals as they navigate conflict and displacement. Six of the current most pressing humanitarian crises are unfolding in contexts with laws that criminalize same sex relationships.

Nevertheless, humanitarian responses continue to exclude LGBTQI people and communities, subjecting them to even higher risk of harm. In an effort to improve our approach as a humanitarian agency to reach, support, and advocate with and for LGBTQI people affected by humanitarian crises, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) undertook research to better understand the experiences of LGBTQI people in conflict and humanitarian settings. Through key informant interviews with 35 actors from LGBTQI-led and serving organizations, researchers, and activists supporting communities in humanitarian contexts in Latin America and the Caribbean, the Middle East and North Africa, SubSaharan Africa, and Asia and the Pacific, this research explored the experiences of LGBQI people living through humanitarian crises and sought recommendations for initiating and improving research and programs with LGBTQI communities.

In our commitment to putting the voices of LGBTQI serving organizations at the front and center of this work, this report opens with commentaries and calls to action from four representatives of LGBTQI-led organizations working in contexts of conflict and displacement. Highlighting perspectives from Kenya, the Bahamas, the Philippines, and Tunisia, these commentaries set the tone of the report by responding to the research findings and outlining what LGBTQI-led and serving organizations want from and expect of international humanitarian actors moving forward.

The report then presents the study findings on the forms and manifestations of violence and discrimination against LGBTQI people in humanitarian settings, with a focus on family violence. While the research primarily explored family violence in the context of conflict and displacement, many key informants also recounted examples of violence and discrimination that go beyond the family as perpetrators; therefore, this report also describes non-family violence and discrimination occurring in humanitarian contexts. A theme that arose continuously throughout this study is how separation from family of origin (often at a young age) may lead to or put an LGBTQI person at increased risk of other types of violence and far reaching discrimination. This displacement creates conditions in which LGBTQI people are at high risk of poly-victimization, where each experience of violence or discrimination is compounding and linked with prior experiences.