When merely existing is a risk

Sexual and gender minorities in conflict, displacement and peacebuilding


Peacebuilding, in its essence, is about building more inclusive and less violent societies, with gender often being one of the most salient factors impacting on social exclusion. Questions of sexual orientation and gender identity that do not fall into the binary categories of women and men or do not adhere to heterosexual norms have been largely absent from gender and peacebuilding research, policy and programming. Based on our research conducted in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Colombia, Lebanon and Nepal, as well as a review of secondary literature, we demonstrate how identifying – or being identified by others – as belonging to a sexual and gender minority often adds additional layers of vulnerability, precariousness and danger to lives already under threat. While sexual and gender minority persons often live in precarious conditions in peacetime, these are exacerbated in situations of violent conflict and displacement. As with other gendered vulnerabilities and power imbalances, pre-existing conditions of discrimination and exclusion are heightened and made more acute in these situations. Peacebuilding must therefore do a better job at understanding these dynamics and addressing them.