The Impact of the Earthquake, and Relief and Recovery Programs on Haitian LGBT People

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This report is relevant for humanitarian practitioners because it demonstrates the severe and negative consequences for LGBT people in the wake of disasters; the Haiti earthquake response serves as a cautionary tale for many aspects of response, and this report demonstrates the ways in which LGBT people suffered as a result of lack of coordination and purposeful inclusion or consideration.

This briefing paper presents findings on the differential impacts of the 2010 Haiti earthquake, and points to the gaps in the humanitarian response system. The paper highlights the ways that delays in aid distribution–to, for instance, women’s rights groups–had devastating impacts for Haitians living in emergency camps.

The paper first looks at the ways in which aid was (or wasn’t) distributed in the aftermath of the earthquake and provides some general background on the relief programming. The paper then discusses the ways in which the earthquake had disproportionate impacts on the LGBT community, including the destruction of (already severely limited) ‘safe spaces’ in Port-au-Prince; the forced discontinuation of services from the only LGBT organisation as a result of overwhelming immediate needs; inability to access safe housing; the inadequacy of heterosexual, cisgender women-centric food distribution systems; high levels of sexual and gender based violence against lesbian women, gay men and trans women in camps; and forced behaviour changes to better conform with gender norms. The report notes the same demonising rhetoric used by western medical practitioners around the HIV/AIDS epidemic: in the 1980s, US doctors blamed Haitian gay and bisexual men for providing a ‘bridge’ for HIV to enter the US; following the 2010 earthquake, Haitian and international actors were blaming the LGBT community for bringing ‘the wrath of God’ down upon Haiti.

The LGBT community also reported their distrust in institutional capacity and willingness to meet their specific needs, citing regular police abuse. This briefing paper provides an important look at how humanitarian response lets LGBT people fall through the cracks.

The report then moves into a review of existing knowledge around the LGBT community in disasters, citing work by Pincha on Aravanis in Tamil Nadu, before providing recommendations for more inclusive development practice.

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"When asked to identify the greatest impact of the earthquake on their lives, the majority of LGBT people interviewed for this paper indicated that it decimated the already limited physical spaces, social networks and support services available to them."

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This briefing paper presents findings on the differential impacts of the 2010 Haiti earthquake, and points to the gaps in the humanitarian response system. The paper highlights the ways that delays in aid distribution–to, for instance, women’s rights groups–had devastating impacts for Haitians living in emergency camps.

The paper first looks at the ways in which aid was (or wasn’t) distributed in the aftermath of the earthquake and provides some general background on the relief programming. The paper then discusses the ways in which the earthquake had disproportionate impacts on the LGBT community, including the destruction of (already severely limited) ‘safe spaces’ in Port-au-Prince; the forced discontinuation of services from the only LGBT organisation as a result of overwhelming immediate needs; inability to access safe housing; the inadequacy of heterosexual, cisgender women-centric food distribution systems; high levels of sexual and gender based violence against lesbian women, gay men and trans women in camps; and forced behaviour changes to better conform with gender norms. The report notes the same demonising rhetoric used by western medical practitioners around the HIV/AIDS epidemic: in the 1980s, US doctors blamed Haitian gay and bisexual men for providing a ‘bridge’ for HIV to enter the US; following the 2010 earthquake, Haitian and international actors were blaming the LGBT community for bringing ‘the wrath of God’ down upon Haiti.

The LGBT community also reported their distrust in institutional capacity and willingness to meet their specific needs, citing regular police abuse. This briefing paper provides an important look at how humanitarian response lets LGBT people fall through the cracks.

The report then moves into a review of existing knowledge around the LGBT community in disasters, citing work by Pincha on Aravanis in Tamil Nadu, before providing recommendations for more inclusive development practice.