On 15th May, ReportOUT’s 2021 recruitment wave brought onboard thirty new volunteers. While all teams welcomed new members, the research team saw the highest growth. Now composed of 37 volunteers, we have become ReportOUT’s largest team. This increase in research potential comes in perfect time. As a first task, new researchers will dive into an ambitious new project: we are writing a book!
What is it about?
The Global Guide to Queer Rights, planned to be launched in 2022, will be a report on the lives of sexual and gender minorities in all 195 countries. The goal is to consolidate information from existing high-quality research in a readily available, compact form.
Similar country-by-country guides are published annually by organizations such as Human Rights Watch (The World Report) and ILGA (State-Sponsored Homophobia). Our Global Guide will cover some of the gaps left by these publications. Human Rights Watch’s World Report has a broad outlook, accounting for problems that affect many social groups and therefore does not often leave much room for specific gender and sexuality issues. ILGA’s report, on the other hand, does focus on gender and sexual minorities but only surveys the legal developments in the area. At ReportOUT, we are piecing together a comprehensive exploration of the legal, social, political, and economic factors conditioning the lived experiences of gender and sexual minorities in each country.
Who will it benefit?
We are hoping that this book will benefit a plethora of people and initiatives, from other activists and organizations to travel specialists and agents, researchers, educational institutions, etc. – anyone with a practical or theoretical interest in understanding how different contextual factors shape the challenges faced by gender and sexual minorities.
For example, the Refugee Studies Centre at the University of Oxford published a report in which they lay out the central obstacles for asylum claims based on gender identity and sexual orientation. According to the Centre, most asylum cases in countries like Norway fail due to a lack of “reliable country of origin information”. Decision-makers in this field need to be shown a complete picture of “the nature of homophobic persecution, which is cemented by a complex interaction between legal, political, social, religious and familial spheres” (Wessels 2011). However, it can be difficult for people seeking asylum to provide such detailed information from sources likely to be considered reliable in forensic settings. Our book, hopefully, will facilitate their efforts to do so.
Where are we in this process?
Writing the book in regional ‘phases’, we have started with African, South American, South Asian, and MENA countries. As of now, nearly 32 book chapters written by previous volunteers are already finalized. We are picking up the pace this June, as new human rights researchers have concluded a training session on how to put together the chapters. We expect to conclude the current regional phase by 31st July 2021.
Writing the Global Guide as a new volunteer
Excitement levels among us, the new volunteers, are soaring since we were each assigned the three countries on which we will report first. As a team with mixed backgrounds, we bring with us research experience from fields like sociology, psychology, development, law, public health, and international relations. We find ourselves thrilled by the opportunity to come together and apply our skills to a project we are all passionate about.
Tayler Kane is one of ReportOUT’s newcomers. A politics graduate currently studying International Human Rights Law, Tayler is writing the Global Guides’ chapters on India, the Maldives, and Sri Lanka. In her words: “I’m excited to be part of this amazing project that will inform, educate, and just make the world that little bit safer”.
Likewise, Mark Brown believes that the book “will be a great resource for people to educate themselves - to see how queer cultures are shaped by history, politics and social attitudes the world over.” Mark, who is doing his MA in Human Rights, is working on the French Guiana, Ecuador, and Peru. Besides his wish to raise awareness about queer histories, Mark’s excitement about the book also stems from his own curiosity: “I’m particularly excited to learn about the queer histories of these nations, and to examine the impact that legacies of colonialism have had on the lives and rights of sexual and gender minorities... how the lived experiences of sexual and gender minorities are unique to every nation.”
Indeed, curiosity seems to be a huge drive within our group. During our training session, many of us expressed feeling positively challenged by the task ahead. Some are working on countries that were unfamiliar to them until now - often, countries that remain widely under-explored in terms of their gender and sexual minority populations. For a few, this is also their first experience with research on gender and sexual minorities. We find this very motivating.
This evokes the question of why we joined ReportOUT, asked in our induction week. Our answers consistently emphasized our sense of personal commitment to the organisation’s goal – like Tayler, we all want to contribute to improving the lives of gender and sexual minorities globally. However, an equally highlighted expectation about volunteering at ReportOUT is to have the opportunity to continue learning. The Global Guide then fits us perfectly as a first project.
We are looking forward to presenting our work!
Article By Maria Lima