Activism and Resilience: LGBTQ Progress in the Middle East and North Africa

Activism and Resilience: LGBTQ Progress in the Arabic-speaking States in the Middle East and North Africa Region 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.

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.