New report: Progress on LGBTQ issues in the Middle East and North Africa


11 October 2018

Media contact: Rashima Kwatra,

New report: Progress on LGBTQ issues in the Middle East and North Africa

Today, OutRight Action International, LGBTIQ human rights organization, releases the report, Activism and Resilience: LGBTQ Progress in the Arabic-speaking States in the Middle East and North Africa Region. The report is a joint research initiative with the Arab Foundation for Freedoms and Equality. The report explains how activism in the region leads to progress on LGBTQ issues, and how challenges are met with the resilience of the movement. It looks into the country situation in Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, and Tunisia. The report finds that while the legal and social contexts differ across the four countries, there are commonalities in the strategies activists have used to respond to challenges, including:

  • Forming coalitions, particularly with feminist and women’s rights organizations. This has provided LGBTQ activists with increased visibility and security.
  • Using art and media as a means to reach and connect to the broader public who may not otherwise have exposure to LGBTQ people or their issues.
  • Working closely with lawyers to ensure that LGBTQ people prosecuted under the law have access to legal representation.

Jessica Stern, Executive Director of OutRight Action International, comments on the report,

The report shows that the experiences of LGBTQ people in the Middle East and North Africa are not homogenous. Too often LGBTQ people are portrayed solely as victims, that is simply not the case. The activism and resilience of the movement have lead to progress that must be acknowledged and built upon. There are many strategies to advance the human rights of LGBTQ people coming from the region that we can all learn from and employ.

Consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized across the majority of Arabic-speaking states in the Middle East and North Africa region. In addition to risking arrest, LGBTQ people are often subject to violence and discrimination in both the public and private spheres.

The report highlights that existing media and reporting on human rights violations against LGBTQ people from the region fail to capture the complex realities for LGBTQ people on the ground – which is also shaped by resilience, activism and legal and social progress.

Additionally, experiences of LGBTQ people continue to be misrepresented by select states at international fora including the United Nations – often relying on shaky arguments based on cultural and religious values. However, these governments do not speak for all in the region – some governments have been supportive of incremental progress.

Suraj Girijashanker, lead researcher and author of the report, says,

Activists from all four countries expressed how historically local movements have not gotten their due. Our findings show that local organisations and activists are achieving progress for LGBTQ people in challenging contexts, often through the use of creative strategies. International and regional organisations should place the expertise of local activists at the forefront, and consult them about the best ways to support progress.

The report provides evidence that LGBTQ rights in the region can be supported through a multi-pronged approach with local LGBTQ organizations, coalition-building, feminist organizing and artistic production at the forefront. Emphasizing that progress cannot be measured solely based on legislation, and therefore advocating for legal reform alone is inadequate.

Interviews can be scheduled with activists living in Jordan, Lebanon, Tunisia, and Morocco.

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Every day around the world, LGBTIQ people’s human rights and dignity are abused in ways that shock the conscience. The stories of their struggles and their resilience are astounding, yet remain unknown—or willfully ignored—by those with the power to make change. OutRight Action International, founded in 1990 as the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, works alongside LGBTIQ people in the Global South, with offices in six countries, to help identify community-focused solutions to promote policy for lasting change. We vigilantly monitor and document human rights abuses to spur action when they occur. We train partners to expose abuses and advocate for themselves. Headquartered in New York City, OutRight is the only global LGBTIQ-specific organization with a permanent presence at the United Nations in New York that advocates for human rights progress for LGBTIQ people.