Lesbian, bisexual, and queer (LBQ+) women and non-binary people around the world face violence from security forces, family members, and others, along with widespread discrimination that prevents them from building relationships, homes, and families. This video shows six lesbian women who tell their experiences of violence and discrimination around the world.
Natpop: We will always remember those lesbianswho are in the front lines in so many cities today trying to resist.
When we think about LGBT rights, we don’t often think about women’s rights to land and inheritance, girls’ access to education, or freedom of movement.
These women’s rights issues are critical for lesbian, bisexual, and queer women, but don’t usually rank high among LGBT rights movements’ priorities. At the same time, LBQ+ women are also underrepresented in women’s rights research and advocacy.
The global scale of discrimination and violence against them has fallen through the cracks.
A Human Rights Watch global investigation uncovered the most critical forms of violence against LBQ+ women.
The pressure to marry men and forced marriage were the most frequently reported abuses experienced by LBQ+ people around the world.
Liliya: Bride napping and forced marriages are common practices in Kyrgyzstan. And my story is not unique, unfortunately. Since I was a kid, I was dreaming to travel all over the world. And when I was 18, I wanted to move out from the house. But my mama always said you will leave this house with a husband. Or after my death. So I have to get marriage. I kept thinking if I tried hard enough I would probably like staying with a man But it was terrible. It was torture to share a bed with a person you don't really like.
Women face barriers or challenges in accessing and controlling land and property in about 40 percent of the world. This makes it much harder for two women to start a life together if neither can inherit, own or access land on equal terms with men.
For example, in Mexico, women often do not have a say over how communal lands are managed, particularly in rural and Indigenous communities.
Sofía: We all defend the land, but not all of us can access the land.
Those who mainly have access to land continue to be men. The other thing is that, in our communities, they legitimize us by being wives. When we are not wives, when we are not mothers… the legitimacy is not the same.
Violence Against Masculine-Presenting LBQ+ People
Masculine-presenting women are often targeted with threats, physical attacks, sexual violence and harassment for not looking feminine enough and for daring to occupy masculine space in the world.
Whitney: Violence you experienced is very convoluted and understanding what it means to separate your blackness from your sexual orientation and your gender identity. As a Black woman who is masculine presenting, people see you as this masculine presenting person, that kind of gives you these characteristics to be able to take or be strong or do anything.
They also give people permission to then be more aggressive with you. When I lived in St Louis where I was physically attacked by the police and still to this day, I don't know if it was because I do present as a male, or if it was just because of my blackness.
Violence at Work:
LBQ+ women face sexual harassment, violence and threats by male colleagues at work, as well as discrimination in hiring practices, and widespread economic inequality.
We have received complaints from lesbians who work in the fields. The first problem they encounter [after the assault] is who to turn to, most times they are not believed.
The other problem is they could always suffer repercussions or another rape, or sexual assault. They might also have to travel 300 or 400 kilometers to make a report.
Ultimately the social message, the message of institutional violence, is that you deserve it.
Freedom of movement:
30% of the 187 economies examined by the World Bank have laws that limit women’s freedom of movement. Laws criminalizing same-sex relations also restrict LBQ+ women's movement and empower police to harass LBQ+ women and activists in public.
It took me a lot of time to accept myself because here in Tunisia, it's a huge taboo. It's something that it's like people would prefer to die to not let that secret get out.
Societal pressure or religious pressure and, uh, the legal pressure like being like homosexuality it is punishable by law. Up to three years, well, in prison. I started to avoid the checkpoints of the police, even though I did nothing.
Did you run from your parents? Why is your hair short? Are you a lesbian?
I don't feel safe in my own country. At moments of my life, I didn't feel safe in my own bed.
LBQ+ activists are leading political, land, environmental, economic, gender, and racial justice movements -- beyond what is typically considered “LGBT rights” work.
But many lack international visibility and funding, and their human rights work makes them targets for violent attacks.
Last October we had a really, really small event for the trans community. It was a Saturday afternoon. Like half an hour in, someone knocked on the door… a group of ten people yeah, the police identified them as 11 people, were entering and this guy was running for president. I was like, “no, no, you can't enter.” And in that point, he just punched me. And I realized in that moment that they are here to fight.
I believe that the attack in the rainbow was also part of the elections campaign because the person who was leading the group was running for president, he's a very famous neo-Nazi.
We are not making it up like all the talk about discrimination and hate crimes.
Governments around the world should abolish sexist laws and create protocols that explicitly protect the rights of LBQ+ people.
Donors should fund LBQ+ rights organizations and LBQ+ led movements for environmental, racial, economic, and migrant rights.