Still a blind spot: The protection of LGBT persons during armed conflict and other situations of violence

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This article is relevant for humanitarian practitioners, especially those working in conflict situations, because it highlights the ways that social norms can be violently deployed against diverse SOGIESC communities in periods of conflict.

The article begins by describing the humanitarian hardships experienced by LGBT communities during armed conflict and the ways international human rights law and international humanitarian law do and do not address these issues. The article highlights that what little reporting has been done on the experiences of LGBT people during armed conflict reflects that individuals who are or are assumed to be members of the LGBT community are persecuted for their sexual orientation and/or gender expression. LGBT individuals from Syria have testified that their friends, neighbours, former school mates and families have threatened them or ‘sold them out’ to various armed groups. The author provides examples from Central Africa Republic, DRC, Afghanistan, Colombia and Peru of how LGBT people are persecuted during conflict, as well as how LGBT identities are used to persecute people.

The author then moves into a discussion of the changes in international human rights law frameworks that have occurred in light of increasing awareness of violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression. For instance, the Committee on CEDAW has determined that criminalisation of same-sex intimate relations violates rights guaranteed by CEDAW. The challenge of actualising the rights of LGBT persons in conflict is discussed.

The legal framework of international humanitarian law—which is silent on sexual orientation and gender identity—is then discussed. The responsibility of states to uphold international human rights law in conflict is considered. The author then identifies the specific principles of international humanitarian law that are relevant to the protection of LGBT people in conflict, and the obligations under international law to respect the Geneva Conventions.

The author then discusses the practical challenges of applying these norms in conflict, including discussions on the LGBT community in the context of conducting hostilities, detention, ill-treatment while in detention, family life, relocation and repealing anti-LGBT laws in occupied territories. The latter is discussed in detail.The paper concludes with a discussion of the resistance by states to implement and uphold their legal obligations to protect the rights of LGBT persons in conflict.

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"It is essential to challenge 'traditional' values and narratives while offering alternative ones which support the notions of humanity, the inherent dignity of each and every human being, non-discrimination and non-violence."

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The article begins by describing the humanitarian hardships experienced by LGBT communities during armed conflict and the ways international human rights law and international humanitarian law do and do not address these issues. The article highlights that what little reporting has been done on the experiences of LGBT people during armed conflict reflects that individuals who are or are assumed to be members of the LGBT community are persecuted for their sexual orientation and/or gender expression. LGBT individuals from Syria have testified that their friends, neighbours, former school mates and families have threatened them or ‘sold them out’ to various armed groups. The author provides examples from Central Africa Republic, DRC, Afghanistan, Colombia and Peru of how LGBT people are persecuted during conflict, as well as how LGBT identities are used to persecute people.

The author then moves into a discussion of the changes in international human rights law frameworks that have occurred in light of increasing awareness of violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression. For instance, the Committee on CEDAW has determined that criminalisation of same-sex intimate relations violates rights guaranteed by CEDAW. The challenge of actualising the rights of LGBT persons in conflict is discussed.

The legal framework of international humanitarian law—which is silent on sexual orientation and gender identity—is then discussed. The responsibility of states to uphold international human rights law in conflict is considered. The author then identifies the specific principles of international humanitarian law that are relevant to the protection of LGBT people in conflict, and the obligations under international law to respect the Geneva Conventions.

The author then discusses the practical challenges of applying these norms in conflict, including discussions on the LGBT community in the context of conducting hostilities, detention, ill-treatment while in detention, family life, relocation and repealing anti-LGBT laws in occupied territories. The latter is discussed in detail.The paper concludes with a discussion of the resistance by states to implement and uphold their legal obligations to protect the rights of LGBT persons in conflict.