Effective Prevention and Inclusive Responses to SGBV in Humanitarian Crises: The Healthcare Needs of LGBTI People in the Great Lakes Region of Africa

Lead Research Organisation: University of Birmingham
Department Name: POLSIS


Sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) in conflict situations and humanitarian crises has reached epidemic proportions, yet the international community's response is inadequate. The UK Government (2010-15) played a leading role in challenging the culture of impunity attending SGBV, but the House of Lords Report on the Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative (PSVI) (2015) noted that legal remedies were insufficient; a survivor-centred approach was required, including strategies to promote social and cultural change (2015: 68). This report further noted that health needs must be paramount in holistic responses (Ibid: 66). The UK Government has been asked to commission research on the effectiveness of its responses in regard to LGBTI people (UK FCO, 2015: 14).

This strategic network confronts and responds to the incidence of SGBV against lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people in situation of humanitarian crises across the Great Lakes Region in Africa, paying specific regard to health, including HIV infection, and access to health services. With reference to HIV specifically, the United Nations (UN) Global Fund, a multi-million dollar fund dedicated to the fight against infectious diseases, recognises the need to address marginalised groups, including LGBTI people and sex workers in combating HIV (2012). The UN Security Council has long recognised HIV risks factors in conflict-affected settings (UNSCR 1983, 2011). UN peacekeepers might be perpetrators of SGBV yet there is little dependable data on the levels of HIV in troop committing countries and inadequate training on SGBV, sexual orientation or gender identity (SOGI) for deploying troops. SGBV has implications for human rights and gender equality. However, the dominant framing and language in which SGBV is couched very often casts only women and girls as victims and so compounds the invisibility of people who do not conform to heteronormative expectations and who are, consequently, stigmatised and often criminalised.

The network focuses on the needs of marginalised and stigmatised LGBTI people, impacted by conflict and humanitarian crisis in Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania. This includes populations who have been displaced, internally and across borders. Participants in the network will work at the interface between research, policy and advocacy. Thus, the network will bring together a range of expertise in conflict and humanitarian crisis, peacekeeping, human rights, SGBV, SOGI, global governance, global health, and HIV specifically, with policy-makers and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) who operate on the front line of implementation. It will generate ground-breaking ideas, supported by robust evidence, to inform practical, effective policies.

The network will build on existing research, identifying gaps in current evidenced-based knowledge and pin point areas where there is a need for further research, specifically with respect to marginalised groups. It will tackle methodological issues and confront the legal, political, ethical and practical challenges attendant on meeting the healthcare needs of LGBTI people. It will contribute to the development of effective training programmes on SOGI, SGBV and health, including HIV, for UN peacekeepers deployed across this region. It will also disseminate research findings, including initial guidance on workable strategies, to legislators, policy-makers and to other change drivers, at local, national and international levels, in respect to affected and at risk LGBTI communities.

Planned Impact

The impact will be commensurate with the ambitions of the network. That is, to: a) lay solid foundations for future research that will benefit, directly or indirectly, LGBTI communities in the Great Lakes Region; b) to build capacity, expanding the international network of interdisciplinary researchers, policy makers, NGOs and other research users. The overall aim is to build an enduring network of researchers and research users working on these issues.

1. LGBTI people and communities currently beyond the reach of health service providers.
2. Policy-makers who will benefit from research which will help them to identify, access and effectively deliver services to LGBTI people in contexts where there are ethical challenges and political and/or legal obstacles and barriers.
3. Other research users, through outreach work, including NGOs who have knowledge of local conditions, but do not have access to current research on SGBV against LGBTI people and attendant health issues and who are not presently integrated into research and policy networks.
4. Academics, through the fostering of interdisciplinary collaboration that bridges divides across intellectual traditions and identifies gaps in knowledge in extant literature.

Activities to ensure benefit:
1. In the forging of contacts between academics, research users and other beneficiaries. All activities will bring together the 'core team' and a larger group of academic researchers, including doctoral researchers, with policy-makers drawn from, for example, UNHCR, WHO and IMO, and NGOs who work on SGBV, SOGI and health.

2. By ensuring the co-production of knowledge. Integrating research subjects, policy-makers, NGOs and other user groups into all activities is not only desirable, but also necessary. The realisation of core aims depends upon researchers accessing local knowledge of cultural, political and legal contexts and understanding how they are negotiated by marginalised individuals and groups. It requires understanding lived experiences - the construction of meanings and individual and collective behaviour patterns. This can only be achieved by building close relationships between participants, while maintaining academic objectivity and professional, working practices. The close involvement of policy-makers and other practitioners is also needed if the rich vein of theoretical and conceptual knowledge produced across the social and health sciences is to be translated into measures that work.

3. By contributing to the welfare of LGBTI individuals and the development of countries in the GLR as a whole. For the long-term economic and social development of this region, it is vital to ensure access to healthcare for groups who are marginalised, or invisible and hence currently beyond the reach of health service providers (Isaksen, Gunnar and Spissoy, 2002; World Health Organisation, 2006:1). This network and programme of activities, carefully designed to achieve core objectives, will have positive benefits not only for individuals immediately affected (which is important), but will bring wider benefits over the longer term in helping to building security and social stability, furthering well-being and contributing to economic development. Beyond the policy-makers and NGOs invited to participate in activities, research users and change drivers will be reached through webinar 2 and the dissemination of documents and the final report though an extensive email list.

4. By fostering interdisciplinary collaboration (all workshops), identifying gaps in extant academic literature and pin-pointing key areas for future research. Workshop 1 addresses the theory/practice divide in areas of academic research pertinent to the network; specifically how critical theoretical perspectives on LGBTI can be applied to concrete policies. Workshops 2 and 3 will bridge methodological divides across intellectual traditions and promote mixed methods approaches.


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Description There is no impact to date but this will be updated in the future when this develops.
Description Global Challenges PhD Scholarship
Amount £56,565 (GBP)
Organisation University of Birmingham 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2018 
End 02/2022