Gender and LGBTQI+

Silenced identities

The phenomenon of migration is often associated with socio-economic factors or the spectre of conflict. When discussing refugees and asylum seekers, one thinks of people fleeing countries at war or under extreme dictatorships. However, many are forced to flee their country on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity.


Kenyan filmmaker censored in his country / JIM CHUCHU

Being gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex, or part of other sexual or gender-based minorities can, in some parts of the world, carries with it the threat of being imprisoned or sentenced to death, and suffering threats, extortion, blackmail, exclusion and/or social rejection. The repression suffered by many people for their sexual orientation or gender identity has become one of the most repeated and, until now, one of the most invisible human rights violations on the planet.

Homosexuality is illegal in 78 countries around the world, and in 7 it is punishable by the death penalty. In Africa alone, there are homophobic laws on the statute books of 38 of the continent’s 54 countries. Between 2018 and 2019, a total of 331 murders of trans people and those of non-hegemonic gender identities were recorded. The majority of these murders occurred in Brazil (130), Mexico (63) and the United States (30).


Migrant women: the global chain of care

In recent decades migration has undergone a feminization: more and more women are migrating in order to earn a living, reunite their families, gain an education, and become more self-sufficient. These are women who leave their country in search of a better life, and who, as they embark on their journey, are often faced with the dual hardship and vulnerability of being both migrants and women.

This flow of female migration, primarily motivated by work, has been termed the “global chain of care”. It can be explained, in part, by the growing demand in rich countries for people to carry out the most insecure and socially devalued jobs (domestic work, care work, and sex work).

As a result of a patriarchal and gendered division of labour, against a backdrop of globalization, certain groups of women are replacing others in domestic, emotional, and personal care roles. This creates a paradox in which women in impoverished countries leave their families in the care of other women in order to take care of families in rich countries. As a result, class and ethnic inequalities arise between women themselves, reinforcing the patriarchy and perpetuating gender divisions in the distribution of daily tasks.


The wall of the patriarchy / ROLAND PESCHETZ

On the other hand, there are women who migrate in order to reunite with husbands who have previously emigrated. In this case, an additional and specific problem may arise: the enormous dependence of these women on their partners amidst an absence of support networks, possible linguistic difficulties, and forseeably limited economic autonomy in their new destination. In such cases, women may find themselves in an extremely vulnerable situation as regards sexist violence.


Claiming blackness / ZANELE MUHOLI

Multiple forms of violence

It should also be noted that a lack of legal and safe routes means that many LGBTQI+ women and people and other sexual and gender-minority migrants end up caught in illegal networks of human exploitation and forced prostitution, lacking in any protections against dangerously high levels of multiple forms of violence.

Rape is used as a weapon to humiliate not only those who suffer it, but also their family and wider community. While people who are injured or murdered are considered martyrs or victims, those who are raped are questioned and discredited by authorities, and suffer stigmatization and even social exclusion.

From a gender perspective, we must take into account the intersection of oppressions that multiply forms of violence, which is to say, the specific circumstances of the violence affecting women and LGBTQI+ people in their countries of origin, during migration, and in the country of arrival.

"We were raped so many times that they no longer saw us as human beings" - Melvin, Guatemala, march 2019 / NY TIMES

"I was less than human, with no right to express who I truly was to my own people" - Omar, a young gay refugee