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

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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. 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.

As part of the USAID-funded Safe at Home program, IRC conducted interviews with 35 representatives from LGBTQI-led and -serving organizations, researchers, and activists, revealed that LGBTQI people face compounding risks in humanitarian settings: exposure to violence from family members may drive LGBTQI people to leave their homes, only to face discrimination and exclusion in the public sphere, ranging from economic exclusion to physical and sexual violence from armed groups. These forms of risk and marginalization are then exacerbated when seeking services from humanitarian agencies: non-recognition of LGBTQI partnerships and family structures, limited social support, fear of consequences to oneself or loved ones due to visibility as an LGBTQI person, devaluation of the needs of LGBTQI people, and poor treatment from humanitarian staff, all serve to further marginalize and exclude LGBTQI survivors of conflict and displacement.

In addition to detailing experiences of LGBTQI people in humanitarian settings, findings from this report clarify shortcomings within the humanitarian sector in the global mandate to provide safe, respectful, and affirming services to survivors of conflict and displacement. The report includes call to actions directly from leaders of LGBTQI-serving organizations in The Bahamas, Kenya, The Philippines, and Tunisia, and recommendations to donors, researchers, and practitioners to move towards inclusion of LGBTQI persons in humanitarian response.