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Article

It is impossible to divorce the criminalization of LGBTI conduct from the social, institutional, and extra-legal violence to which individuals within this community are subjected, as laws are a mirror of a society’s values. The foundation for laws that punish non-hetero-normative sexualities and gender expressions are societal constructions of hetero-normativity. Lawmakers codify their generalized views about what roles persons should fulfill or perform based on preconceptions regarding the attributes, behaviors, or characteristics of a person, class, or group. Non-hetero-normative sexual orientations and gender identities challenge traditional notions of sexuality and gender. Violence is used as a way to control the bodies of those who exhibit non-heteronormative traits and values, as well as a form of social control to reinforce sexual and gender norms. The distinctions countries create in the targeted illegality of “male” and “female” homosexuality demonstrate the conflation of sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation. Laws that ban expressive conduct and effectively eliminate lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons from public discourse have historical roots in Christian and Muslim religious traditions. Whether codified or not, violence against LGBTI individuals is a consequence of deeply embedded gender inequality. Such inequality manifests in social and physical violence that ultimately punishes, controls, and erases LGBTI persons. Although international bodies have reacted against such violence by ratifying legal instruments to protect the LGBTI community, changing social conditions and preconceptions has proven to be the most effective route to protecting LGBTI persons’ human rights.

Article

Ellie Gore

From Pride marches in Entebbe to legal battles in Lilongwe, the struggle for queer liberation in Africa has intensified over the past two decades. This has given rise to diverse formations of queer activism and organizing across the African continent and, in turn, to a burgeoning academic literature on the politics and practices of queer African activism. From a legal perspective, this period has seen progress in the status of queer or LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex) rights in some parts of the continent. Elsewhere, this has paralleled a rise in forms of state-sponsored homophobia. The Ugandan government’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill is one prominent example, which garnered international notoriety in 2009. Focusing on waves of political homophobia in countries like Uganda, some Western media commentators have characterized Africa as homophobic, a continent where queer individuals face violence and persecution. Yet heightened international concern over the plight of queer Africans has not always been accompanied by an understanding of the movements, alliances, organizations, and activists working on these issues on the ground, nor has it incorporated the voices and experiences of queer Africans themselves. Thus, narratives of “homophobic Africa” belie the multiple, far-reaching ways Africans are coming together to contest homophobia, unsettle heteronormativity, and assert their rights. Among this growing array of activist groups are the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya, Freedom and Roam Uganda, the Association of LGBTI People in Zimbabwe (GALZ), and LEGABIBO (Lesbians, Gays & Bisexuals of Botswana), to name just a few. In the academic literature, scholars have converged around a key set of issues and debates in an attempt to document and understand the character of contemporary queer politics and activism in Africa. This includes debates over language, naming practices, and terminology and discussions of political and religious homophobia, processes of globalization, the impact of HIV interventions and international aid funding, and the political economy of development. The complexity of these issues defies generalization and necessitates a concern for specificity: for an understanding of the shifting social, cultural, economic, and political contexts in which struggles over queer liberation and LGBTI rights are taking place in Africa; of the historical legacies of colonialism and uneven patterns of global development; and of the opportunities and constraints shaping queer activism in each setting. Against this background, scholars engaged in the study of queer activism must interrogate whose experiences, voices, and priorities are being heard (and whose are being excluded) and seek to center those activists at the grass roots who are leading the struggle for queer liberation and erotic justice on the continent.

Article

The role of a queer decolonial analytic is to put scholars of ethnic decoloniality in conversation with queer studies scholarship. In exploring not only the impact of the Ottoman Empire on the region but also of a larger global colonial gender/sex system, decolonial scholars analyze the intersection of imperial hierarchies with the coloniality of gender. This is why Romania and Turkey serve as a focus to think about repositioning ethnic and gender identities in the context of global capitalist and imperial hegemonies. Queer activists in collectives such as Macaz in Romania and Hêvî LGBTI in Turkey show that decolonial politics needs an alliance with queer studies. Refusing single-issue activism, decolonial queer politics in Turkey and Romania seeks a radical transformation of society by drawing on the success of intersectional analyses as well as by addressing growing concerns about global inequality. Moreover, a queer decolonial analytic interrogates mainstream LGBTI+ terms such as “visibility” and “the closet” and calls for a different political imaginary on the basis of José Esteban Muñoz’s assertion that the future is the domain of queerness. Since the language of the closet and visibility in LGBTI+ activism has significant limitations in wider political and societal contexts, a new analytic proposes the transformation of current activist vocabularies. In Turkey, the historical oppression of the Kurds and their ongoing political struggle have given a unique position to Kurdish LGBTI+ organizational efforts and queer activists. Kurdish LGBTI+ activism raises critical questions about ethnic and class hierarchies both within Turkey and within a global queer movement. This sort of activism deemphasizes “the closet” or “gay marriage,” or a mere “visibility,” which traditionally have been a key component of the 2000s LGBTI+ organizations and Western non-governmental organizations’ agendas. Like in Turkey, new forms of queer activism in Romania seek to develop spaces and locations that create safe spaces, advocate sexual experimentation, and promote radical social interventions.

Article

The human rights of LGBTI persons are being contested across the world—both within states and across regions. Despite decades of incremental change, in many states, LGBTI activists are beginning to rapidly advance their normative agendas, particularly in the context of protection against violence and discrimination. However, consistent backlash and opposition to LGBTI advocacy remains. Notwithstanding decades of silence on LGBTI rights, international institutions are also beginning to rapidly include sexual orientation and gender identity in their work as well. Institutions that consist primarily of independent experts and that focus on narrower human rights issues have been especially active in including sexual orientation and gender identity in their work, either formally or informally. At the same time, largely political institutions have generally lagged behind their counterparts. Scholarship on both sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) advocacy and contestation have also lagged behind political and legal developments at international institutions. Although a few works exist, particularly on the UN Human Rights Council, there are numerous other institutions that have been understudied. Further, research on the implementation of international SOGI policies has also been largely absent. SOGI advocacy and contestation continues across nearly every major international institution. Research agendas, either qualitative or quantitative are sorely needed to help better predict and explain the advancement or retreat of SOGI in international institutions and within domestic contexts.

Article

The situation of trans rights in Latin America varies greatly by country and region despite a binding 2017 opinion from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) clarifying member states’ obligations to guarantee trans rights. While countries in the Southern Cone and Northern Andes have recently made great strides in protecting and supporting their trans citizens, Central America, the Caribbean, and several countries in South America continue to offer little or no legal support for trans rights. Some countries, such as Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, and Uruguay, have passed Gender Identity Laws that provide trans people with the ability to rectify their documents to reflect their names and gender identities. The current state of trans-specific policy in the region is explored by first framing it through an overview of the relevant parts of the IACHR ruling and then presenting the case for the depathologization of trans identities, one of the movement’s most pressing goals. Crucial to this discussion is the next section, which presents the current rights and limitations in trans-specific healthcare in the region. A discussion of the importance of gender identity as a basic human right, recognized in the IACHR ruling, follows, continuing on to an analysis of the place of children, adolescents, and their parents in relation to this right. Relatedly, the next section explores the prevalence and force of anti-discrimination laws in the region, which vary greatly in their specific protection of trans people. Finally, we attempt to look forward to what may be next in the fight for trans rights in the region, exemplifying cases such as that of Uruguay, which has recently begun to debate trans-specific reparations, and Argentina, which has begun to debate dedicated employment slots for trans people.

Article

Despite ongoing challenges, the European Union (EU) not only is a major actor on the world stage, but also emphasizes human rights for LGBTI individuals in its internal and external policies, thus setting a powerful example for acceptance and inclusion worldwide. While this establishes the EU as a presumptive normative actor from a liberal human rights perspective, a number of disputes over those rights policies and the way they are promoted have emerged in bilateral relations between the EU and other states in recent years. Given Europe’s colonial history, the fact that the bloc is collectively the world’s largest provider of development assistance, and the volatility of LGBTI human rights defenders, it is important to investigate how the EU and its member states promote LGBTI rights internationally. The EU institutions attempt to jointly formulate and implement guidelines for the external promotion of such rights, though no uniform rights standards exist across the various member states. The compatibility of EU and member states’ conceptions of LGBTI rights and the more general question of how far the EU is, can, or should be a “normative” agenda-setting power on the world stage are central. This heavily contested but also popular ideational concept glosses over the limited consensus that exists in the EU with regard to many of its policies and the role it should assume in international affairs. Such incoherence is particularly evident in normatively contested and geopolitically intertwined areas like sexual rights and equality (ranging from nondiscrimination based on sexual and gender expression to positive rights of partnership recognition and childcare). To the extent that a common approach on LGBTI rights is developed, one can detect promotion attempts in the external policy areas in which rights promotion is formulated and diffused, namely in development and foreign aid, in enlargement and neighborhood policies, and in exchange with other international organizations. However, these come with their own politicizing issues, so that alternatives to the presently emphasized conditionality and visibility policies may provide a better way forward.

Article

In recent decades, the efflorescence of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) movements has created powerful inroads for sexual rights in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa. While conditions for LGBTI people vary considerably between and within countries, activists across the region are reshaping political, legal, and social understandings of gender and sexuality through their advocacy, both by seizing opportunities and navigating periods of backlash and repression. Over the years, activists have established domestic movements and have expanded their reach to articulate demands in regional and international forums. Their work has challenged the universality of models developed in other parts of the globe and has generated new tactics to respond to religious, familial, and state-sponsored prejudice. At the same time, questions of representativeness, accountability, and strategy have been raised by constituencies and longtime activists alike, inviting critical assessments of movement politics in the region.

Article

Capturing the nuanced attitudes toward LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) people and rights in Africa involves examining them from within and outside the African context. Constructions of the entire African continent as holding negative attitudes toward LGBT peoples and denying them any rights remain quite commonplace across the Global North. However, closer analysis of specific nation-states and regions complicates our understanding of LGBT people and rights in Africa. Advances in the global study of LGBT attitudes through tools such as the Global LGBTI Inclusion Index and the Global Acceptance Index survey African peoples’ beliefs about LGBT communities. These measures locate African attitudes about LGBT peoples within a comparative context to decenter assumptions and many inaccurate, often colonialist, constructions. Attitudinal measures also expose the gap between legislation securing formal rights and the beliefs driving peoples’ everyday practices. These measures further specify how African governments can, often in response to Western political and economic forces, leverage homophobia on a national level to serve their interests despite a misalignment with the population’s attitudes toward LGBT peoples. Nongovernmental organizations and advocates raise awareness about LGBT rights and issues to impact socialization processes that shape these attitudes to generate political, social, and economic change. A rights-based approach and research on attitudes emerging from the African context represent shifts critical to better understanding how LGBT peoples and rights can be more effectively advanced across the continent.

Article

Suyapa Portillo and Cristian Padilla Romero

Honduran social movements have historically organized around three important pillars: political parties constituted by both traditional and more radical parties, labor organizing efforts, and campesino-based land struggles. Work and land took formidable shape from the 1900s to the 1930s as workers began pushing back against the unyielding exploitation of U.S.-based banana and mining corporations and resisting. The end of the Tiburcio Carías Andino dictatorship in 1949 gave rise to a militant labor movement and political opposition to the ruling National Party, which came with an uneasy alliance between leftists and the Liberal Party. Workers efforts, bottom up, paved the way for progressive labor and agrarian laws. After World War II (WWII), Hondurans become ensnared by U.S.-led Cold War politics and anti-communism, leading to the 1963 coup d’état against the Liberal president Ramon Villeda Morales and decades-long military rule, rendering the country one of the closest allies of the United States. Military rule and proximity to the United States crushed progressive movements that dared to organize, co-opted the once radical labor movement, and criminalized landless campesinos. In the 1990s, after the peace accords were signed in the Central American region, the Honduran state, following orders by international institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), implemented neoliberal policies that rolled back many of the hard-fought gains of the 1950s and 1960s by eroding the public sector. As a result of the corroding democratic nature of the neoliberal governments, culminating in the 2009 coup d’état against progressive president Manuel Zelaya, Hondurans from virtually every sector of society, including Indigenous, Black, and feminists, began mobilizing against state policies and demanding a more participatory democracy in La Resistencia, which has transformed into a vibrant, creative, youthful, and widespread movement.