5-6 JUNE 2018 / Tour & Taxis / Brussels

LGBTI people and the SDGs

Making sure EU development cooperation leaves no one behind

Lab debate
Tuesday, June 5, 2018
18:00 to 19:15

LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex) people are affected by the challenges that the SDGs intend to solve, including low income, less education and poor access to health. Discriminatory laws and negative social attitudes prevent LGBTI people from accessing equal opportunities and reaching their potential. Many countries lack anti-discrimination or hate crime legislation, several ban “homosexual propaganda” and there is often no recognition of trans and intersex identities.

Development projects disproportionately benefit heterosexual couples and traditional families, and work with a narrow definition of gender, leaving LGBTI people behind. This Lab Debate will make the link between SDGs and the rights of LGBTI people, and find creative ways to mainstreamed LGBTI issues into international development efforts and EU policies.

Key points

  • Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) issues must not be omitted from international development, EU policies and sustainable development goals.
  • Discriminatory laws and negative attitudes in many countries stop LGBTI people enjoying basic human rights, such as education and a decent wage.
  • Government and policymakers must work with the media to stop LGBTI violence.
  • Films are particularly important as a creative way to change the perception that homosexuality is wrong.
  • Religion also has a role to play in producing a positive image of the LGBTI community.


As 2018 marks the 70th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the need to include the LGBTI community in all development laws and European Union policies is even greater.

The EU’s 2030 sustainable development agenda called “Making sure no one is left behind” with its sustainable development goals (SDGs) is one driver to ensure the rights of LGBTI people. The policy does not tout a human rights violation message but promotes one of creating opportunities.

Progress is being made in law. For example, the European Court of Justice now recognises spouses can be of the same sex. But in many countries, including Uganda, Saudi Arabia and Yemen, being homosexual can mean the death penalty. In Kenya, LGBTIs see employment contracts terminated and are threatened with violence, even death. The situation in Russia, particularly in Chechnya, is critical.

Trans women are especially hard hit. In the Middle East, they are frequent victims of violence; they have to leave school and their access to visas is very limited. Provision for trans people in refugee camps or shelters after crises like the 2004 tsunami is woefully inadequate as accommodation and sanitary facilities are gender-based. This leaves them vulnerable and open to attack.

Journalists have a key role in revolutionising traditional views of homosexuality in African and Middle Eastern countries. They can increase the visibility of LGBTI people and help achieve social change. Legislators should also disseminate a positive LGBTI message through all media channels to achieve a positive effect.

The use of films to stop the negative image of LGBTI – if they get past censorship controls – is particularly effective.

Wanuri Kahiu’s lesbian love story “Rafiki”, screened at this year’s EU Development Days, is the first Kenyan feature ever to screen at the prestigious Cannes film festival. But the film was banned on home turf.

Meanwhile, Africa’s recent film festival screened 1,000 films – but none of them tackled LGBTI issues. Defending the programme, the organiser only said one film looked at incest and another at paedophilia.

A more positive message towards LGBTI people is increasingly evident in church or at the mosque. Catholic priests are helping fight bigotry against homosexuals. Many Muslims are taking a stand against LGBTI violence. In short, the discourse that you cannot be religious and LGBTI is being challenged


People in some developing countries still believe homosexuality is a western phenomenon and that the LGBTI community is in collusion with the western world – despite the fact that some anti-homosexuality laws date from colonial times.

Organised by


Christian Scharling
Institut d'études politiques de Paris
Mercedes Garcia Perez
European External Action Service (EEAS)
Georges Azzi
Executive Director
Arab Foundation for Freedoms and Equaltiy
Micah Grzywnowicz
Board Member
ILGA-Europe (European LGBTI Association)