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Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and

Transgender (LGBT) Youth in the


Global South

INTRODUCTION VIOLENCE AGAINST LGBT INDIVIDUALS


Globally, around 76 countries currently Homophobic and transphobic violence is
criminalize same-sex relations and five witnessed in every region of the world “Since
countries impose the death penalty on people 2011, hundreds of people have been killed
caught engaging in same-sex activities. and thousands more injured in brutal, violent
In every region of the world, transgender attacks…” “Other documented violations
individuals face significant human rights include torture, arbitrary detention, denial
violations. Culture and religion are often of rights to assembly and expression, and
used to defend anti LGBT sentiments and the discrimination in health care, education,
guise of “protecting minors” becomes a proxy employment and housing.”1 Discriminatory
BRIEF

to further advance an anti-LGBT agenda. laws, combined with culture and religion, can
Young people aged 10-24 constitute one lead to extremely dangerous outcomes, such
quarter of the world’s population with the as bullying and violence, lack of access to
majority of them living in the global south education and job opportunities, harassment
THE FACTS

and even though statistics on LGBT youth from the police and other institutions,
are hard to find, over the course of the last homelessness, violence, and death.
several years, we have seen a continuation
of violence and harassment targeting LGBT • In the Republic of Georgia, 32 percent
youth across the globe. This violence further of LGBT individuals reported having
puts young people at a crossroad between experienced physical violence.2
having to choose between leading a life of • In countries like El Salvador, Kyrgyzstan
secrecy, or face discrimination and violence. and South Africa, it has been documented
In many countries around the world we have that lesbian, bisexual, and transgender
seen laws, either enacted or proposed that women are at risk for being raped or forcibly
punish LGBT people and create a climate of impregnated, based on the justification
fear and hostility. These measures not only that women who are raped by a man will
violate the rights of LGBT young people, change their sexual orientation (so-called
but also hamper the efforts of activists and corrective rape).3
organizers who are advocating for issues that
POLICY

directly affect this population, such as access • There are several reports of targeted killings
to comprehensive and youth-friendly HIV/ of LGBT people in the world. For example,
AIDS information and services. These laws 31 LGBT people were killed in Honduras
do not just prohibit same-sex marriage or over an 18-month period, 44 bias-motivated
conduct, but also typically contain provisions killings took place in Europe in 2009, and
that prohibit the formation of LGBT advocacy a number of targeted killings of lesbians
and support groups as well as restrict rights happen in South Africa regularly.4
to freedom of expression and assembly (most
recently in Kyrgyzstan, Nigeria and Uganda) • LGBT people suffer from violent attacks in
further limiting the ability of young people to response to peaceful advocacy campaigns,
have a safe and open environment to live in demonstrations, and events that contain
and learn. any material related to sexual orientation
and/or gender identity. Organized resistance
We have seen the emergence of an incredible is often led by faith groups, Neo-nazis,
and vibrant global LGBT movement; however paramilitary groups, or nationalist groups.5
young LGBT people are often excluded (as
is also the case within the broader civil • Some LGBT leaders and civil society activists
society) from decision making processes have become victims to the most extreme
that define their socio-cultural and political forms of violence. Specific examples include
environments which puts them at increased the murder of transgender teen Dwayne
risk of becoming marginalized. Jones in Jamaica, LGBT activist David Kato
in Uganda, and the torture and murder
understanding that this support can result
of Eric Ohena Lembembe, the Director
in fines or arrest.13
of Cameroonian Foundation for AIDS in
Cameroon.6 • In the Asia Pacific, same sex behavior is
criminalized in 19 out of 38 countries,
• Between January 2008 and October 2014,
adding additional barriers to young MSM
there were 1,612 reported killings of
and transgender people being able to
transgender people in 62 countries. Over
access health services and leaving them
78 percent of documented murders were
additionally vulnerable to be impacted
in Central and South America.7
by HIV.14
• According to the Council for Global
• Incidents of violence or discrimination
Equality, the Country Reports on Human
against LGBT individuals are often
Rights Practices 2015 produced by the State
unreported because the victims either do
Department documents that “targeted
not trust the police or are afraid of being
LGBT killings are cited in countries ranging
“outed” or violated further. In fact, there
from Germany to Honduras and Russia to
have been several cases in which the
Pakistan. Attacks are commonly identified
police attack LGBT individuals in some
as occurring in both public and private
communities around the world.15
spaces. The Mali report explains that
“family members, neighbors, and groups • According to a focus group convened in
of strangers in public places committed Asia by Youth Voices Count, rape of men
the majority of violent acts, and police younger than 18 in Pakistan was reported
frequently refused to intervene.”8 to be widespread and two participants in
the Karachi focus group discussion said
• According to a survey (unpublished)
that they had experienced rape by police.16
conducted by Men Against AIDS Youth
Group (MAAYGO) in Kenya to document • The same study reported that at least one
the needs of LGBT surveyed youth, half of young person in all of the focus groups
the transgender women had experienced disclosed experiencing sexual violence and
physical violence. in Pakistan, Philippines and China, rapes
were not reported to the police because
DISCRIMINATORY LAWS AND LACK OF of shame and the belief that the police will
LEGAL PROTECTION not do anything.17
Discriminatory laws and lack of legal
protection around sexual orientation and FAMILY REJECTION, BULLYING AT
gender identity creates a climate of fear SCHOOL, HOMELESSNESS AND
and legitimizes harassment and violence ECONOMIC HARDSHIP
perpetrated by state actors that further puts LGBT young people in the Global South
LGBT people at risk for violence perpetrated experience extreme hardship within their
by the police, family and community. communities rendering it extremely difficult
for them to lead healthy lives and become
• Same-sex sexual relations are criminalized productive adults.18
in 76 countries. Punishments range from
imprisonment to the death sentence in at • Across the world, LGBT youth report
least five countries.9 discrimination in schools.19
• Some of these laws are inherited as • According to the Council for Global
colonial era laws.10 Equality, the Country Reports on Human
Rights Practices 2015 produced by the
• Most countries in the Global South have State Department documents that in
no non-discrimination statute regarding Dominican Republic, Latvia and Japan
employment, access to housing, and there were reported instances of school
government services for LGBT individuals.11 bullying with violence directed at
• Transgender communities are considered transgender students as particularly
outside the laws that protect citizens from severe. A Bolivian study found “72 per cent
abuse and discrimination, and hinders of transgender individuals abandoned
their access to health, education, and other their secondary school studies due to
social services.12 intense discrimination.”20

• Laws banning “homosexual propaganda • According to a survey (unpublished)


to minors” instill a fear around any show conducted by Men Against AIDS Youth
of public support for LGBT people and an Group (MAAYGO) in Kenya to document
the needs of LGBT youth, all men who
access to health resources.”29
identified as gay reported some level of
victimization from the community with • LGBT youth can face violence perpetrated
the highest ones being rejected by friends by family and community.30
followed by rejection from family.
• There are “rehabilitation clinics” in
• Students who were bullied because of their Ecuador where lesbian and transgender
actual or perceived sexual orientation youth are forcibly detained with the
had a 27 percent higher absenteeism rate permission of family members. These
than those who were not, according to the youth have been subjected to torture,
largest safe school studies to date.21 including sexual abuse.31
• An online survey which was sponsored by • Religious rhetoric can also place LGBT
Vietnam’s Center for Creative Initiatives people at risk. The Committee on the Right
in Health and Population found that 77 of the Child has criticized the Holy See for
percent of LGBT youth experienced verbal contributing to stigmatization faced by
abuse; 44 percent experienced physical LGBT adolescents.32
assault in school; 42 percent of these youth
lost interest in school, 33 percent skipped
school, and 6 percent abandoned school.22 LACK OF ACCESS TO COMPREHENSIVE
SEX EDUCATION AND CULTURALLY
• According to a survey (unpublished) COMPETENT HEALTH CARE
conducted by Advocates for Youth and the Access to quality comprehensive sex
African Queer Youth Initiative, Physical, education remains unattainable to most
verbal and emotional abuse; eviction from youth globally which places additional
house, work and community and rejection barriers to LGBT youth’s ability to access
by family/clan, friends and from church culturally relevant and age appropriate
were the top three areas in which they had information to live healthy lives.
experienced discrimination.
• Due to lack of or poor implementation
• Young people with non-conforming of comprehensive sex education, young
gender identities face discrimination in people are not informed and educated. For
many countries.23 example, the percentage of young people
with comprehensive knowledge of HIV
• In a report on LGBTQ organizing in West was just 39 percent for young men and 28
Africa, homelessness was listed as one of percent for young women 15 to 24 in sub-
the issues faced by LGBTQ youth living in Saharan Africa.33
West Africa.24
• Globally, men who have sex with men
• LGBT youth in and out of school experience (MSM) are 19 times more likely to be living
discrimination, harassment, as well as with HIV than the general population34
violent abuse in some cases.25 and “transgender individuals have
• “A survey conducted by the United Nations alarmingly high HIV prevalence rate
Educational, Scientific and Cultural ranging from 8 percent to 68 percent.”35
Organization (UNESCO) of students in While HIV rates among the general
Thailand found that more than 30 percent population are falling in many countries,
of LGBT respondents had been bullied Young Men who have Sex with Men
in the previous month and more than 30 (YMSM) are particularly vulnerable and
percent had experienced physical abuse.”26 have significantly higher prevalence rates
than the general population.36 Inadequate
• School is one of the most dangerous places access to comprehensive sex education,
for gay and lesbian youth in South Africa.27 shown to be effective in delaying sexual
activity and increasing condom use among
• In South Africa, violence and bullying young people who are sexually active,
perpetrated by families contribute to high also undermines efforts to protect young
dropout rates among LGBTI youth.28 people from acquiring HIV.
• “A 2015 study by Higher Education & Training • In West Africa, social taboos combined with
HIV/AIDS Programme (HEAIDS) and the tradition and religion make it very difficult
Networking HIV/AIDS Community of South to implement comprehensive information
Africa (NACOSA) found that homophobia, around sexual and reproductive health.
stigmatization and discrimination against However according to a survey
LGBTI students led to lower levels of administered by the Queer African Youth
educational attainment and affected their
Network (QAYN) 99 percent of gay and • Punitive social and legal contexts
MSM youth engaged in their first sexual along with limited access to sexual and
activity by the age of 15.37 reproductive health services are the main
determinants for high prevalence of HIV
• Lack of availability of condoms and lube amongst YMSM.43
can also make it difficult to engage in safer
sex behaviors. According to a mystery SELF-STIGMA, THE PRESSURE TO MARRY
client research (unpublished) conducted by AND TO MAINTAIN HETEROSEXUAL
Sexual Health And Reproductive Rights For RELATIONSHIPS
Youths (SHARRY) around services available
to Young Men Who Have Sex with Men LGBT youth are especially vulnerable to
(YMSM) in Uganda, none of the ten sites internalizing messages that frown upon any
visited distributed condom compatible deviation from mainstream understandings
lubricants, which makes sex among YMSM of gender and sexuality which can lead
risky even with a condom. According to a to self stigma, negative health outcomes
focus group convened in Asia by Youth and a diminished ability to envision a
Voices Count, condoms were not readily hopeful future.
available in rural areas and young MSM • Self stigma can have devastating effects
and transgender women in Nepal and around self efficacy, negotiating healthy
other countries did not have information behaviors and access to care that can
about where to access lube.38 lead to negative health outcomes and
• Lack of access to comprehensive sexuality that young MSM and transgender
education or using materials that promote women reported struggling around self-
stereotypes can lead to violence and acceptance, depression, anxiety, entering
negative health outcomes.39 into relationships with older people
where there was a power imbalance which
• According to a survey (unpublished) affected self-efficacy including being able
conducted by Men Against AIDS Youth to use condoms and suicidal ideations.44
Group (MAAYGO) in Kenya to document
the needs of LGBT youth, the majority of • The majority of studies on Caribbean
LGBT youth surveyed identified “access to men who have sex with men (MSM)
health services without fear of stigma and show that many men also have sex with
discrimination” and access to “safer sex women. Similarly, women who have
methods” as key concerns around sexual sex with women (WSW) often engage in
health. heterosexual relations to avoid stigma
and discrimination, or for childbearing
• According to a survey (unpublished) purposes.45
conducted by Advocates for Youth and
the African Queer Youth Initiative, Lack of • In Pakistan, some lesbian and bisexual
connection to other LGBTI Youth, safe space women enter into heterosexual marriage
for LGBTI youth, friendly health services, to escape violence from families of origin
sources of employment and lack of friendly while others are forced to comply with
social places were amongst the top three family expectations.46
challenges they face as an LGBTI Youth.
RECOMMENDATIONS:
• YMSM and young transgender women
in Asia reported feeling fear, shame and • Condemn the violence and bigotry
stigma in accessing health care services due committed against LGBT youth in the
to judgmental attitudes of the health care global south, and around the world.
workers and the possible compromising of • Specifically recognize and prioritize the
confidentiality by the health care workers.40 needs of LGBT youth.
• Young transgender women in Asia reported • Target specific funding for LGBT youth
not being able to access health care organizations and young human rights
services because their gender identity did defenders.
not match the gender marker on their ID
card.41 • Specifically invest in LGBT youth leadership
development and capacity building to make
• Cost of medical services, operating hours sure that youth have the skills to advance
and distance to health care facilities were the work within the LGBT movement.
also reported as obstacles to health care
services by YMSM and transgender women
in Asia.42
• Promote evidence- and rights-based, in the areas of sexual and reproductive
LGBT-inclusive comprehensive sexuality health and rights, suicide prevention, HIV/
education. All young people deserve to AIDS and trauma counseling.
have complete and accurate information
about their sexual and reproductive • Establish national standards on non-
health, including sexuality, condoms and discrimination in education; develop anti-
contraception, healthy relationships, bullying programs and establish helplines
and the prevention of violence, stigma, and other services to support LGBT youth
and discrimination. and gender-non-conforming youth; and
providing comprehensive age-appropriate
• Support the full range of youth-friendly sexuality education.
sexual and reproductive health services
with guarantees that such services are • Ensuring that housing policies do not
confidential, affordable, and respectful discriminate against tenants based on
of young people’s rights to privacy and sexual orientation and gender identity; and
informed consent. establishing shelters for homeless LGBT
persons, with specific attention to youth,
• Advocate for the inclusion of strong older persons and those in emergency
language recognizing the diversity of situations.
youth, including LGBT youth and other
marginalized youth, at the United Nations. SUCCESSFUL DEVELOPMENTS IN THE
As young people themselves articulated GLOBAL SOUTH:
in the UN Bali Global Youth Declaration,
recognition of sexual rights is a critical Despite these significant challenges, as
component of guaranteeing the safety, a result of a strong LGBT movement and
security, and healthy development of advocacy, there have also been exciting
LGBT youth. developments in the global south that has
shifted the discourse and given everyone
• Advocate to make sure that laws hope that the importance of human
criminalizing sexual assault must also rights for LGBT people are finally on the
address violence perpetrated against global agenda.
LGBT people.
• In 2015, India’s Supreme Court took proactive
The following recommendations are action, recognizing transgender people as
directly quoted from UN Human Rights legal third gender and granting transgender
Council, Report of the United Nations Indians status as an official minority
High Commissioner for Human Rights requiring protection from discrimination
on Discrimination and violence against (The governments of Nepal, Bangladesh and
individuals based on their sexual orientation Pakistan have formally recognized third
and gender identity, 2015, UN Human Rights gender/transgender people as well.)47
Council: Geneva.
• In 2015, homosexuality in Mozambique was
• Ban “conversion” therapy, involuntary decriminalized which revised the colonial
treatment, forced sterilization, forced penal code dating back to 1886.48
sterilization and forced genital and
anal examinations. • In 2012, Argentina put in place some of the
most liberal rules on changing gender in
• Prohibit medically unnecessary procedures the world, allowing people to alter their
on intersex children. gender on official documents without first
having to receive a psychiatric diagnosis or
• Revise criminal laws to remove offences surgery.49
relating to consensual same sex conduct
and other offences used to arrest and • In 2016, Colombia’s Constitutional Court
punish persons on the basis of their sexual voted in favor of legal marriage equality.
orientation, gender identity or expression. The ruling takes effect immediately,
meaning same-sex couples can now marry
• Repeal so-called “anti-propaganda” and throughout the South American nation.50
other laws that provide restrictions
on freedom of expression, association • In 2014, the National Task Force on Gender
and assembly. and Sexual Orientation-based violence was
established in South Africa.51
• Sensitize health care workers around the
needs of LGBT and intersex persons, including • In 2016 the government of Chile announced
a directive on intersex rights whereby the
ministry of health issued guidance to stop
“normalization” surgeries on intersex Written by M.A Keifer, International Policy
children becoming only one of two Analyst and Urooj Arshad, Associate Director,
countries in the world to have produced International Youth Health and Rights.
formal guidelines preventing medical Advocates for Youth © 2016
interventions the other one being Malta,
which in April 2015 became the first country
to prohibit these surgeries by law.52 REFERENCES
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Intolerance, which addresses these 14. Youth Voices Count. 2012. “The Hidden Dimension:
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and other anti-discrimination measures to HIV in Asia and the Pacific.
in schools in Albania, Australia, Brazil,
17. Youth Voices Count. 2012. “The Hidden Dimension:
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• Annual reporting of discrimination and
18. USAID, LGBT Vision for Action, 2013 Washington, D.C.
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with men and young transgender women and the linkages
to HIV in Asia and the Pacific.”

41. Youth Voices Count. 2012. “The Hidden Dimension:


Experience of self-stigma among young men who have sex
with men and young transgender women and the linkages
to HIV in Asia and the Pacific.”

42. Youth Voices Count. 2012. “The Hidden Dimension:


Experience of self-stigma among young men who have sex
with men and young transgender women and the linkages
to HIV in Asia and the Pacific.”

43. UNAIDS (2014) The Gap Report.

44. Youth Voices Count. 2012. “The Hidden Dimension:


Experience of self-stigma among young men who have sex
with men and young transgender women and the linkages
to HIV in Asia and the Pacific.”
MISSION
Established in 1980 as the Center for Population Options, Advocates for Youth champi-
ons efforts to help young people make informed and responsible decisions about their
reproductive and sexual health. Advocates believes it can best serve the field by boldly
advocating for a more positive and realistic approach to adolescent sexual health.

OUR VISION: THE 3RS


Advocates for Youth envisions a society that views sexuality as normal and healthy and
treats young people as a valuable resource.
The core values of Rights. Respect. Responsibility.® (3Rs) animate this vision:
RIGHTS Youth have the right to accurate and complete sexual health information, confi-
dential reproductive and sexual health services, and a secure stake in the future.
RESPECT Youth deserve respect. Valuing young people means involving them in the
design, implementation and evaluation of programs and policies that affect their health
and well-being.
RESPONSIBILITY Society has the responsibility to provide young people with the tools
they need to safeguard their sexual health, and young people have the responsibility
to protect themselves from too-early childbearing and sexually transmitted infections
(STIs), including HIV.

SOME RELATED PUBLICATIONS FROM ADVOCATES FOR YOUTH

The Facts: LGBTQ Youth


The Facts: Transgender Youth
The Sexual and Reproductive Health of Young People in Low and Middle
Income Countries

See the complete library of publications at www.advocatesforyouth.org/publications