Everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, deserves equal access to opportunities and services and their safety should be protected.
However, young people who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex or Questioning (LGBTIQ+) are among the most marginalised and excluded members of society. They are particularly vulnerable to stigma, violence and discrimination, due to their real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity.
This can have lasting consequences on their social and psychological health and have substantial adverse effects on society as a whole.
What is the problem?
Legal challenges, combined with gender inequality, harmful social norms and practices towards people who identify as LGBTIQ+ fuels stigma, discrimination and violence, often to an extreme level.
Challenges related to identifying as LGBTIQ+ often combine with other factors of exclusion, such as age, race, and religion, making gender inequality and exclusion often worse for LGBTIQ+ youth.
Harmful views are sometimes promoted to young people by those central to their lives, such as their peers, parents, teachers or religious leaders. However, these groups can also be valuable in driving the change in society that leads to inclusion for all children.
Champions of Change for Gender Equality and Girls’ Rights
Our Champions of Change programme aims to advance gender equality and tackle discrimination by empowering girls and working with boys to challenge harmful, dominant masculinities that perpetuate discrimination and prejudice.
A key element of the programme is to challenge social gender norms, how rigid roles and behaviours are imposed on young people because of their gender, including how dominant forms of masculinity relate to homophobia.
An evaluation of the pilot programme in Latin America, showed that prejudice and homophobia among boys were significantly reduced when they were able to critically discuss LGBTIQ+, gender and masculinity issues in a safe manner with peers. By discussing the causes and consequences of homophobia and see the injustice of certain attitudes, youth are able to commit to rejecting negative attitudes and behaviours.
A newly developed module will allow young people to discuss sexual orientation and gender identity, increase their knowledge about rights and develop their skills to take a stand for and with LGBTIQ+ young people.
Did you know?
- 72 countries or states currently criminalise same-sex sexual relations between consenting adults.
- In 8 of these such relations are punishable by the death penalty.
- Only 24 countries allow same-sex couples to marry.
What are the consequences?
Stigma and discrimination can negatively impact the rights of LGBTIQ+ youth. In addition to their fundamental right to live free from violence and discrimination, bullying can lead to an increased likelihood of avoiding school and of low personal and academic self-esteem.
This can then also limit future employment options for LGBTIQ+ people. In some contexts, the challenges of identifying as LGBTIQ+ can lead to an increased risk of homelessness or increased likelihood of entering sex work as a means to survive.
LGBTIQ+ youth are at higher risk of threats and verbal, physical and sexual abuse and yet may be unable to secure help and support from those whose duty it is to protect the community.
There are often extra challenges in accessing proper sexual health services due to discrimination or lack of expertise among service providers. Sex education, if there is any at all, is often heteronormative (seeing heterosexuality as the norm in society) and not address the needs of LGBTIQ+ youth.
Tackling bullying in Thailand's schools
In 2014, Plan International Thailand, UNESCO and the Mahidol University conducted research on homophobic transphobic bullying in secondary schools which highlighted gaps within the educational environment in protecting those who identify as LGBTIQ+.
For example, the research found that 56% of school students who identify as LGBTIQ+ had been bullied in the past month. Among them, 31% experienced physical abuse, 29% verbal abuse and 24% sexual abuse.
This research formed the basis of a three-year programme involving young people, parents, local organisations, schools and the government to prevent bullying and violence and make educational institutions safer for LGBTIQ+ youth.
How is Plan International supporting LGBTIQ+ youth?
Plan International supports LGBTIQ+ youth through our research, programmes and initiatives across the globe.
Our Champions of Change programme is active in 20 countries and aims to advance gender equality by empowering girls and working with boys to challenge the harmful, dominant masculinities that perpetuate discrimination.
Research into homophobic and transphobic bullying in Thailand's school system has led to a 3-year project involving schools, students, parents, local organisations and the government to address violence against young people who are or are perceived to be LGBTIQ+.
In Benin, we are working with the Global Fund to raise awareness, increase the conversation and communication around HIV/AIDS and improve access to treatment and education about prevention among the community, including those who identify as LGBTIQ+.
In El Salvador, we are working with the Global Fund to support HIV/AIDS at risk or affected communities through mobile health clinics and counselling. We are also working with transgender activists in the fight for an identity law to be passed that will allow them to be legally recognised as their self-identified gender.
In Peru, youth, including LGBTIQ+ youth, are empowered to be the principal advocates for their own sexual and reproductive rights. We are working with youth organisations and local authorities to raise awareness and take a stand to promote equal access to health services free from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.