Designing LGBTI Sensitive DRR & Relief Programmes

This was the first cross-posting of Constellation with UNDP's  Solution Exchange India and Bhutan and India Civil Society. The consolidated reply of the responses was compiled by G. Padmanabhan and Mamta Katwal, Resource Persons, Nupur Arora, Research Associate, and Rituu B. Nanda, Share Facilitator, Constellation with additional support from Sarah Figge Hussain, Solution Exchange Outreach


Summary of responses

Responding to a request for inputs on how to ensure that Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and relief programs are sensitive to the vulnerabilities and needs of the LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex) community, members appreciated, members appreciated the effort to make LGBT communities and those working for, with, and alongside them better prepared to handle disasters.

Discussing how the needs of LGBTI people can and have been addressed effectively within relief and/or DRR programmes, especially by local communities, participants identified several issues. First, they looked at importance of assessing risk and preparedness from the point of view of different groups - women and men, the young and old, and LBGTI individuals. Risk, members opined can be seen as a function of the degree of severity of a particular problem encountered in a phase of the disaster management (DM) cycle (i.e. cases of looting), and the probability of the particular problem occurring. Another variable determining the level of risk is the capacity of a group to cope with or prepare to deal with a particular problem (i.e. in the case of the looting risk through community or formal policing).

Discussants also explored the issue of community levelvulnerabilities in the context of DRR, which is widely recognized but not well understood. They noted that few organisations have any specific plans or guidelines focused on the need of the LGBTI community during emergencies, despite considering them one of the most at risk populations. Even the Sphere Protocol does not address the topic.

At the same time, participants cautioned against focusing too much on vulnerability factors and circumstances. Instead, they suggested focusing on really meeting the needs of vulnerable populations, because categorizing people has limitations. One, it excludes many people may not fit in the inclusion criteria or who do not wish to publicly identify with these names of groups. Secondly, it can result in attributing generalised characteristics to members in these groups, which individuals are not comfortable with.

By restricting the focus on vulnerable populations as opposed to a broader outlook on vulnerability factors and circumstances, there is possible paradox: one where projects can miss people and at the same time include others in a way that dilutes focus on specific vulnerabilities. The LGBTI community is diverse and have unique characteristics and issues, hence, members opined that while planning participatory DRR and related exercises, it is essential to acknowledge and factor in the diversity.

In addition, members recommended that DRR projects take into account thespecial needs of the LGBTI community and suggested the projects:

· Plan specialized sessions of counseling LGBTI individuals, which factor in their specific vulnerabilities during disasters

· Identify high-risk groups, including LGBTIs, as part of preparedness activities and have a social watch group to help mainstream them into the society, especially during and after disasters
· Create a detail database of LGBTI communities to use when developing a response plan
· Build life skills among LGBTI communities by meaningfully involving them in DRR activities

Highlighting the importance of policy level advocacy, participants felt all government and civil society organisations need to be sensitized so they are willing and capable of providing special attention to LGBTI communities during disasters and when engaging in DRR activities. Respondents mentioned several examples that show how the LGBT community has helped to render much needed health and hygiene services to mainstream communities during disasters and suggested DRR projects look at ways to overcome biases.

Along with looking at disaster preparedness, participants also discussedpost-disaster relief and recovery issues. They pointed out that in most developing countries the focus is restricted to rescuing people from the disaster-affected area, moving them to safer sites and providing intermediary shelter and basic first aid. The problem is reproductive and sexual health services and treatment for HIV is often not available post-disaster. Therefore, members recommended DRR programs make provisions for shelters to make Antiretroviral (ARV) drugs, medicine for Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), clean syringes, and needles, condoms, as well as treatment for injecting drug users (IDU) available. In addition, the shelters could display and share IEC materials on safe sex as well as behavior change components. InHaiti, an organization provided urgently needed relief to the LGBT community members, who were having problems accessing aid being provided other organizations and ahumanitarian service agency based in the LGBT and friends community, has been funding earthquake and hurricane recovery efforts, as well as fighting poverty and malnutrition. InSrilanka, a gay rights organization, provided services to gay individuals made homeless after the 2004 Tsunami.

Members shared several usefulresources on how to include LGBTI communities in relief efforts, they felt mostdisaster relief programs are too general. The programs are not equipped to address the needs of specific groups, such as the need for legal documentation of partners, allotment of restrooms, specialized medical needs. They not only stressed on the need to clearly document and clarify the issues of this community, but also highlighted the importance of encouraging the community itself to advocate for their requirements with the disaster management department of their state. After the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, responding to requests from the LGBT community in Japan, a volunteer organization working to promote LGBT aid with a coalition of organizations from the Japanese-American community raised funds for the Northern Japan Earthquake Relief Fund.

Members also highlighted some of thechallenges working with LGBTI communities, including the reluctance among many peopleto discuss these issues openly and the lack of a visible, organised LGBTI community to work with. For example, in Bhutan, respondents shared that at least in principle, there is no discrimination against minorities, however, in practice, LGBTI lack support from their families, friends and communities. They regularly conceal their identity and therefore are very difficult to locate. The only entry point often is through an informal network and usually when a disaster strikes, relief efforts take time to reach the impacted area and with the LGBTI often being “hidden,” it takes even longer to reach them.

Finally, members hoped the discussion and suggestions shared would impact the way organisations engage in DDR planning, so that it better includes needs of the LGBTI community.


You can download the PDF version of the Consolidated Reply with documents and other related resources at:  (PDF Size: 196 KB)

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Comment by Bharat Man Shrestha on July 4, 2013 at 1:18pm

Dear Rituu, thanks for the post. Its great to hear different issues within LGBTI community, which are almost underlooked !!


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