Gay communities at risk in Lebanon, Oxfam study warns

Queer communities in Lebanon have few safe spaces left and have been among the hardest hit by the combined impacts of the Beirut explosion in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing economic crisis , a new Oxfam study warned today. The combination of crises has destroyed entire neighborhoods where queer people have taken refuge over the past decade.

The report “Queer Community in Crisis: Trauma, Inequality & Vulnerability” is one of the first studies conducted in Lebanon to understand the impact of the multi-level crises facing the LGBTQI + community and their unique needs. Oxfam interviewed 101 people, civil society organizations and informal aid groups, a town planner and business owners in the areas affected by the blast.

Research found that 70% of those polled have lost their jobs in the past year, compared to an unemployment rate of 40% in the general workforce. Almost half said they had relied on family support and humanitarian aid to make ends meet.

The LGBTQ community in Lebanon is facing a housing crisis: 41% of LGBTQ people cannot pay their rent and 58% reported that their homes were damaged by the explosion: 35% were forced to move or change lifestyle, 39% have a safe space to live in, and an additional 11% were forced to return to their families, where many said they had faced abusive, dangerous or unacceptable environments. Others were forced to move to overcrowded homes where they faced physical and mental health issues from the coronavirus.

Overall, nearly 73% of survey respondents said their mental health had deteriorated to a large extent due to the Three-Way Crisis.

Nizar Aouad, Oxfam’s gender advisor in Lebanon, said the Beirut explosion and the reconstruction efforts that followed could have devastating structural and cultural repercussions for the queer community. “The explosion was the last straw for LGBTQ people in Beirut. He destroyed all the safe spaces that remained in the city. The city’s reconstruction efforts will likely lead to gentrification, making the areas unaffordable for its current residents, ”Aouad said.

“Sections of neighborhoods should become less accessible to queer people due to high rents and the destruction of public spaces and the already limited places that welcome them. We fear the loss of cultural diversity in Beirut, ”Aouad added.

The discrimination and lack of social acceptance that gay people, especially transgender people, face in Lebanon correlate with fewer opportunities for them to earn a living. Trans people who face systemic and long-standing barriers to formal education and employment are often forced into low-income jobs in the informal sector. Many of them are forced into prostitution to make ends meet. During the pandemic, many informal businesses struggled to survive and the demand for prostitution services declined sharply, exacerbating an already dire situation.

One interviewee noted: “We don’t have safe spaces to exist. We are suffocated from all angles. We cannot go out, we cannot work and we cannot receive appropriate support ”.

Gay refugees, who have struggled for years against legal restrictions that prevent them from entering the formal labor market and limit their mobility, have also found another burden in this crisis.

Research shows a huge and pressing need to rebuild queer-friendly spaces and create new ones in Beirut. However, the government of Lebanon has shown little interest in doing so.

Oxfam calls on the government to prioritize rebuilding safe spaces for the queer community and to provide basic assistance, including cash, shelter and access to services, to those not included in them. current aid projects.

Oxfam urges the Lebanese authorities to decriminalize homosexuality and ensure that all members of the community have equal rights.

“Homosexuals in Lebanon have been systematically discriminated against and denied equal access to general health care and mental health services for far too long. We need to focus on the impact of the current crises on their mental and physical well-being, so that their chances of recovery are equal to those of their cis-straight counterparts, ”said Aouad.


Notes to editor:

  • 75% of survey respondents said their mental health had been affected to a large extent by the crisis at three levels.
  • 62% of respondents reported increased exposure to violence in their current home.
  • 48% said they were unable to access support systems.
  • 39% said they could not access safe spaces.
  • 46% reported great difficulties in accessing general health services.
  • On August 4, 2020, Lebanon was devastated by a catastrophic explosion in the port of Beirut, killing more than 200 and injuring 6,500, and causing massive destruction within 10 kilometers of the explosion site. The neighborhoods hardest hit by the Beirut explosion, particularly the Mar Mikhael, Gemmayze and Achrafieh neighborhoods, were known for their reputation as the most gay neighborhoods in Beirut.

Lebanon is facing its most precarious economic crisis since the end of the civil war in 1990. Since 2019, the Lebanese pound has devalued by more than 85% and unemployment has reached an all time high, leading to an economic recession, high inflation, resulting in devastating social conditions.

  • Oxfam has worked in Lebanon since 1993. We provide humanitarian assistance to vulnerable people affected by conflict, and we promote economic development, the promotion of good governance at local and national levels, and women’s rights through our work with our partners. Oxfam also works with local partners to help protect and empower marginalized women and men. Oxfam in Lebanon works on active citizenship and good governance, economic justice and humanitarian programs.

To respond to the impact of the explosion, Oxfam is working with 11 partners to provide emergency assistance, including distribution of food parcels and provision of emergency and temporary cash assistance, household rehabilitation, legal assistance and counseling, psychosocial support and medication. Services are provided to families and individuals in affected areas, including women, girls, members of the LGBTQ + community, people with disabilities and migrant workers.

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