Out for Justice

a pride parade in Indonesia featuring Global Fund grantees from the Ardhanary Institute. Photo courtesy Ardhanary Institute


Imagine walking down the street without fear of getting beaten. Imagine being able to live openly with the person you love. Imagine not worrying about getting evicted or fired for being yourself. Imagine living free of laws that could execute you for expressing your love. This is still a dream for many gays, lesbians, trans people and sexual minorities around the world.

In 1989, Global Fund for Women awarded its first grant to advance the rights of sexual minorities, at a time when very few funders supported the issue. Our support of LGBTQI activism in the global south has made us one of the most significant funders of this global movement today.

We have provided nearly $3.5 million in support to 260 groups working to advance the rights of LGBTQI individuals. We support groups in 61 countries, of which at least ten criminalize homosexuality. In these countries, stigma among the general population, police repression, as well as hate speech and violence by religious and conservative groups, threaten the very existence of queer individuals.

In much of the world, women who identify as lesbians, bisexual or transgender face the dual oppression of being females and sexual minorities. They struggle against oppression and discrimination from their families, communities and governments that persecute them for being queer. In addition, LGBTQI activists have been alienated by mainstream women’s movements that haven’t always embraced sexual rights.

Given the multiple oppressions they face, LGBTQI activists have had to be amazingly resourceful in fighting for their rights and survival.

In the Middle East and North Africa, where homosexuality is criminalized in many countries, our grantee partners set up unmarked safe houses where LGBTQI persons meet to discuss issues like coping with parents, self-esteem and coming out.Recognizing the life-changing impact of the MDG3 Fund, in 2012 the Dutch Foreign Affairs Ministry launched a new 80.5 million euros fund — Funding Leadership and Opportunities for Women (FLOW) — to advance women’s leadership in more than 100 countries around the world. This investment fills a critical gap in the funding landscape for women, girls and the women’s movement, and serves as a shining model of bilateral funding for women’s empowerment and gender equality.

“In a world governed by misogynistic and patriarchal laws, we inundated the streets of the downtown capital and made ourselves seen in the demand for our rights.” Coalition of Lesbian Groups \\ Mexico City

Technology and media are important tools for the LGBTQI movement in the Asia Pacific. In 2010, Rainbow Rights Project in the Philippines launched the country’s first lesbian radio program to break taboos that stigmatize sexual minorities.

In 2009, Mexico City approved gay marriage, defining marriage as “a free union between two people.” This change in policy was in part influenced by the incredible organizing of a coalition of lesbian groups in Mexico City — LeSVoZ, Archivo Histórico Lésbico, Telemanita, Patlatonalli, Mujeres y Cultura Subterránea — that built bridges with other historically marginalized groups. Global Fund helped underwrite four Marchas Lesbicas over six years. After the first march, they wrote to us, “In a world governed by misogynistic and patriarchal laws, we inundated the streets of the downtown capital and made ourselves seen in the demand for our rights.”

Grantee partners also document and expose human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity. In Kyrgyzstan, Labrys convened a working group of health officials, medical specialists, psychiatrists, and LGBTQI people to develop a gender identity policy that upholds the rights and dignity of transgender people. As a result, 13 Ministries of the Kyrgyz Republic signed the first gender marker change legislation proposal, without objections.

In 2011, the Coalition of African Lesbians in South Africa worked closely with officials to introduce — and successfully passed — the first ever u.N. resolution explicitly recognizing and protecting the human rights of LGBTQI people. While not legally binding, the resolution urges countries to de-criminalize homosexuality, abolish the death penalty for consensual sexual relations, and enact comprehensive anti-discrimination laws to end violence against the LGBTQI community.

As an organization dedicated to gender equality and justice, we are proud to have supported the first “out” lesbian groups in several countries, including China, Croatia, India, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Mexico, Slovenia, Thailand, and Turkey. Their coming out for justice has changed the game.

Photo courtesy Ardhanary Institute