May 21, 2018
Written by Ambassador William Lacy Swing, Director General, International Organization for Migration (IOM)
In a world where more than a third of countries criminalize consensual same-sex relationships, disclosing your gender identity and sexual orientation can be extremely dangerous. For internally displaced members of the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, trans and intersex (LGBTI) community, it can also cripple livelihoods and even be life-threatening.
The injustice that the LGBTI community faces in non-emergency settings does not simply disappear in times of crisis or when people become displaced, in fact, it is usually amplified.
LGBTI internally displaced persons face complex challenges and threats during all stages of displacement. These include discrimination, prejudice, violence, difficulty accessing humanitarian services and barriers to articulating their protection needs.
2018 marks the 20th Anniversary of the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement. On this International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT) (17/05), IOM would like to call on the international community to commit to doing more to assist, protect and address the specific needs of internally displaced individuals, who are part of the LGBTI community.
In working towards a world where internally displaced persons are better supported, we cannot forget about groups with particular vulnerabilities. When you are displaced within the borders of your own country and a member of the LGBTI community, you have to face challenges associated with both groups. Being “out” in a displacement site can lead to stigmatization and violence from fellow members of the displaced community. And LGBTI community members may even experience discrimination from some humanitarian workers themselves. Even unintentionally, organizations who give aid without bias might not have their assistance designed in such way that LGBTI community members get the specific support that they need. This is especially relevant for health care and psychosocial support, among others. And for LGBTI persons displaced to urban settings may, for example, have difficulty in accessing certain essential services or employment.
IOM ensures that all its programming is non-discriminatory and that its staff build humanitarian responses that take into account the specific needs of the LGBTI community. IOM, along with UNHCR, has developed a training course for humanitarian workers to better assist and protect displaced LGBTI individuals. In the past few years, more than 900 staff member have been trained in over 30 countries. We will continue this effort. During the training, they learn about sexual diversity in order to be better equipped to deal with LGBTI issues.
In the last five years, IOM has made important progress in adapting and creating internal policies to foster inclusivity. We will continue striving to create an IOM workplace that best serves LGBTI staff members and is in line with the Standards of Conduct set forth by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. IOM is a supporter of Free and Equal, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights’ global campaign against homophobia and transphobia.
Today, let us commit to better serving those who are facing double discrimination, for being internally displaced, and for being LGBTI. We should also commit to treating all those in need of support, as well as our staff members, with respect, regardless of their sex, gender, sexual orientation or gender identity.