LGBT groups banned from organising around the world, says report

LONDON, Aug 7 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Just 56 percent of the world's countries allow LGBT groups to organise without the threat of arrest or state harassment, further marginalising gay organisations from mainstream society, according to a report published on Tuesday.

The LGBT rights group OutRight Action International analysed 194 countries and found that only 109 allow gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender groups to register legally.

In 55 countries, including Russia and Lebanon, gay organisations exist, but state authorisation is denied. Others, such as Malaysia, ban LGBT groups outright.

"This is a way of hindering and trying to stop any kind of progress or push for equality that LGBT groups want to do," Maria Sjödin, deputy executive director of OutRight, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

"I truly believe that change in society happens because people organise and push for it. That is how greater equality for LGBT people has been achieved."

The survey found that in 30 countries, including Afghanistan, Turkmenistan and Somalia, it was impossible to find any officially registered LGBT organisations at all.

Denying citizens the right to organise is a "way for governments to make it so hard that I guess they hope that people will just give up," Sjödin added. Read more via Reuters

It has become increasingly difficult for community-based organizations to operate, a phenomena frequently referred to as shrinking space for civil society. Yet, to fully understand the impact of new laws restricting organizations’ access to funding, laws equating human rights with the corruption of youth, and laws written to equate activism with threats to national security, it is important to analyze exactly how LGBTIQ organizations are specifically impacted. LGBTIQ movements globally are relatively young, and so many LGBTIQ organizations have had little time to institutionalize. Are LGBTIQ organizations at heightened risk in the current environment, and what can be done to safeguard these young movements?

OutRight Action International’s report, The Global State of LGBTIQ Organizing: The Right to Register, seeks to answer these questions and determine the possibility of legal registration for LGBTIQ organizations globally. OutRight’s research finds that legal registration for LGBTIQ organizations is severely restricted globally and the result is that LGBTIQ human rights defenders work with fewer resources and face more danger.

In a survey of 194 countries, OutRight found that only 56%, 109 countries, permit LGBTIQ organizations to legally register as LGBTIQ organizations. In just 28%, 55 countries, LGBTIQ organizations exist but they cannot legally register as LGBTIQ organizations. In these countries disclosing an intention to serve LGBTIQ people sets up a barrier to legal registration. Thus, many organizations pursue registration using more neutral language about their aims and objectives that do not identify that they work with LGBTIQ people. In 15% of the countries studied, OutRight could not identify any organizations working on LGBTIQ issues, whether registered or unregistered. In these countries, LGBTIQ people don’t have an organization operated by and for the community that can advocate for their rights. OutRight is concerned that LGBTIQ people in these countries may be at higher risk of discrimination and violence.

The study collected data on thousands of organizations across 5 global regions and determined the registration status of a set of 864 organizations in Asia and the Pacific, the Caribbean, Eastern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa. This report includes a summary of legal analysis undertaken in 41 countries to determine the laws allowing Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) to register. In certain countries, the law does not explicitly deny the existence of LGBTIQ organizations but authorities still find ways to reject registration applications and deny equal rights of recognition. Thus, the homophobic and/or transphobic biases of authorities can impede organizations from registering. Finally, the report provides in-depth case studies from Belize, China, Lebanon, Germany, Nigeria, Russia, St Lucia, Singapore, Tanzania and Tunisia on the experiences of 22 LGBTIQ organizations who have sought or obtained legal status in those countries. Read the full report via OutRight International