"Leave no one behind": LGBT inclusion in development

21 February 2018
Author: Kit Dorey

Since the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were introduced in 2015, governments and international development agencies are committed to reach those furthest left behind.

Together with our partners across the world, Stonewall is making the case that the SDGs are a lesbian, gay, bi and trans (LGBT)-inclusive agenda. A lot more can and should be done to make this true in practice in the work of international development agencies.

If you’re talking about inclusive development and then you’re leaving behind a specific group of people who are very vulnerable, who feel their rights are constantly violated, then how are you addressing issues of leave no one behind?

UK Government official, Eastern Africa (Stonewall Interview)

72 countries criminalise same-sex relationships. In 45, the law applies to women as well as men. Most governments deny trans people the right to legally change their name and gender. 

The situation is not just legal inequality. LGBT people are subject to physical and sexual violence. They are held back, discriminated against and excluded in ways that negatively impact their financial security, health, education and daily wellbeing.

Despite all this, governments, donors and charities often exclude LGBT people. This can be due to insensitive programme design, discriminatory policies and practices, a lack of inclusive funding opportunities, or lack of awareness and sensitivity by practitioners.

"Leave No One Behind from an LGBT perspective is about subpopulations within LGBT, who are typically affected by exclusion. Lower income communities, LGBT people who are less educated or unemployed or living with disabilities or also have some other health status that also impacts on their enjoyment and their freedoms and their ability to access them"

Jaevion Nelson, LGBT Activist, J-Flag Jamaica (Stonewall Interview) 

Not all LGBT people experience marginalisation in the same way. They often have complex identities that meet other factors like ethnicity, disability, gender, faith and class.

For this reason, sexual and gender minorities are represented in the communities where most international development organisations already work. They are not a new constituency.

Lesbians, bi women and trans (LBT) people often face complex discrimination – whether it’s a lesbian excluded from land ownership, a trans man unable to find safe employment, or a bi woman undergoing a particular form of intimate partner violence. A 2014 report on violence against LBT women in Asia demonstrates how LBT women can experience very different forms of violence compared to the wider LGBT community .

There are a growing number of amazing LBT and trans-led organisations around the world. However, LBT advocates may find themselves between two stools: marginalised within broader LGBT movements that have too often focused on the priorities of cisgender men, and excluded by national or regional women’s movements. 

International development organisations can play a transformative role to ensure LGBT people are not left behind.

We recommend consulting with and where possible directly supporting diverse LGBT movements that specifically include trans advocates, LBT women, rural, lower income and otherwise marginalised LGBT people. In many countries, LGBT movements are doing this convening work already.

We also suggest mainstreaming LGBT issues across wider programmes, for example on poverty reduction, health, education and gender equality.

The SDGs and the "leave no one behind" agenda have created a chance for the development sector to create an approach that is inclusive of LGBT people. Let’s not miss this unique opportunity.

Find out how organisations are working to make sure no one is left behind at our session on intersectionality and the SDGs at the Bond Conference, 26-27 February.

If you would like to learn more about the LGBT International Development Roundtable, you can contact Stonewall at [email protected]. Stonewall currently works with over 140 Global Employers through their Global Diversity Champions Programme and is available to support on matters of workplace inclusion (either globally or in the UK).

About the author

Kit Dorey
Bond

Kit is a policy and advocacy adviser at Bond. He focuses on the Sustainable Development Goals and leave no one behind, and is the main contact for the SDG Group.