Tuesday, 26 February 2019

What can earthquakes teach us about tackling anti-LGBT violence?

Continuing the series of blogs by current VCD students, this week Gemma Taylor investigates what earthquakes can teach us about tackling anti-LGBT violence.


Something is going wrong in the fight for LGBT equality. Despite recent progress towards equality, violence towards LGBT people remains prevalent – each year hundreds of LGBT people are murdered, thousands subjected to violent attacks and millions more living with  abuse, harassment and discrimination. How do we explain this ongoing violence? More importantly, how do we tackle it?

First, we should recognise that violence does not occur in a socio-political vacuum - there are many factors which play in to the creation and manifestation of violence in its physical form. Galtung’s conceptualisation of cultural and structural violence and the relationship between a direct act of violence and the wider socio-political context in which that act occurs can help us understand the dynamics of anti-LGBT violence[1].

Galtung distinguishes three types of violence:

  1. Direct violence – acts of violence perpetrated by an individual, including physical and psychological violence.
  2. Structural violence –discriminatory structures which create inequalities and social stratification, preventing people from reaching their potential.  
  3. Cultural violence – religion, ideology and other aspects of culture which legitimise structural and direct violence.

Now this is where earthquakes come in: Galtung uses a simple earthquake metaphor to illustrate the relationship between the different types of violence. Think back to old geography lessons and imagine this – direct violence is the earthquake, structural violence is the tectonic plate, and cultural violence is the fault line.

We can easily see this dynamic at play with regards to anti-LGBT violence – cultural beliefs portray LGBT people as immoral deviants, and legal systems treat LGBT persons as criminals and second-class citizens, both establishing a context in which acts of direct violence against LGBT people are seen as legitimate and justified.

So what does this teach us about tackling anti-LGBT violence? Primarily, it tells us that we are focussing on the wrong thing. Direct violence is the most visible form of violence and therefore gets the most attention when it comes to legal protections and violence reduction efforts, however we need to acknowledge that direct violence is a manifestation of the structural and cultural underpinnings. Our focus needs to shift towards root causes of the violence, not just tackling the visible manifestations.  Earthquakes do not happen without plate movement and fault lines; violence does not happen in a socio-political vacuum.

Feeding in to direct violence is an invisible process of othering, whereby groups are excluded from mainstream society based on group identity, i.e. sexual orientation. It is in this process where the cultural and structural forms of violence take place - where the LGBT community are stigmatised and ostracised, and a social divide is caused which allows for a hostile and violent landscape to emerge.

The question remains: How do we prevent cultural and structural violence? I’m not going to profess that I have the answer because, well, I don’t. There is no catch-all cure to violence, no immediate solution. Addressing cultural and structural violence is a more difficult task than addressing direct violence – we need to examine, understand and then dismantle the belief systems and social structures which perpetuate and legitimise violent behaviour. We need to find a way not only to stop the tectonic plates from moving, but to stop the earth from cracking in the first place. This might sound impossible – but all hope is not lost. 

The good news is that cultures and social structures are not fixed – they are made of learned behaviours and social norms which can be influenced and changed. I want to highlight two important areas for change, which I believe are key in tacking anti-LGBT violence - political rhetoric and criminalisation.

The use of homophobia as a political strategy has been utilised by many political actors to stigmatise and dehumanise the LGBT community and legitimise, either implicitly r explicityly, violence against the LGBT community. The recent rise of conservative politics and use of homophobic language by politicians campaigning for “traditional values” correlates with an increase in anti-LGBT violence. This effect can be seen across the globe, most recently in Brazil, with President Jair Bolsonaro a “proud homophobe” using hateful language when talking about the LGBT community, creating a culture of everyday violence – a worrisome new era for the country which has previously hosted the world’s largest Pride Parades. One approach to prevent this cultural violence would be to introduce legislation to protect the LGBT community from hate speech, thereby preventing hostile and discriminatory views from being broadcast and limiting the spread of hateful messages.

In the 72 countries where the State criminalises homosexuality direct violence towards LGBT people is much more prevalent. This is because criminalisation legitimises anti-LGBT violence, creating a hostile social environment in which discrimination, harassment and abuse of LGBT people is met with impunity. The effects of criminalisation are not just seen in vulnerability to direct violence but also in a wider structure of violence where people are faced with discrimination in employment and education; lack autonomy over sexual and reproductive health choices; and are ultimately unable to express their identity due to fear of arrest or reprisal, leading to mental health issues and staggeringly high suicide rates. Decriminalisation is an important step in reducing violence as it not only prevents the cycle of structural violence which is associated with criminalisation, but it also delegitimises violence in other forms.

Change is slow, painstakingly so, but it is not impossible. Stopping the propagation of hatred towards the LGBT community and ending the criminalisation of homosexuality are two concrete steps that can be taken to dismantle the climate of intolerance which engenders violence. Preventing and reacting to direct violence is important but we are ignoring the underlying socio-political factors which feed into this violence. Going back to the earthquake metaphor: earthquake preparation is a necessary endeavour, but we also need to be stalling the movements of the tectonic plates and filling in the fault line – impossible geographically speaking but possible when tackling anti- LGBT violence.

[1]   Galtung, J. (1990) ‘Cultural Violence’, Journal of Peace Research, 27(3), pp. 291–305. doi: 10.1177/0022343390027003005.

Tuesday, 19 February 2019

Which is more effective in preventing conflict : NGOs or Enterprise ?

This is the second in a series of guest blogs written by current VCD student. This week Shiori Ueki asks...

Which one is more effective in preventing conflicts: NGOs or Enterprise?

Since 2017, Japanesenon-governmental organization has started a peacebuilding programme through sports in the northern part of Uganda where many refugees from South Sudan live. The programme aims at preventing conflicts by intercultural understanding between Ugandan people and refugees playing football together. In other words, teamwork and interculturalunderstanding play an important role for peacebuilding. At the same time, to prevent recurrence of conflicts it’s important to create job opportunities for people who are the victims of conflicts because of the relationshipbetween economic development and conflict. In this blog, I argue that peacebuilding approaches by intercultural understanding and creating employment impact people differently comparing two cases.
Peacebuilding in South Sudan by NGO
JapanCenter for Conflict Prevention (JCCP), an international NGO, runs the conflict management projects aimed at strengthening community resilience by training young leaders as intermediaries and by expanding ethnic harmonization through vegetable growing activities within opposing communities.
JCCP has started the project In Juba, South Sudan in 2016, which targets youth in opposing communities especially who are going to be the leaders for next generation. There is the tension between the indigenous people and the people from the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps which provide people who are forced to flee from his/her home but still remain within their home country to stay safe. JCCP is running conflict management programmes for both communities to resolve the emerging conflicts inside and outside of the IDP camps. This programme intends to train youth to be intermediaries who would be inspiring community members rather than educating random individuals, resulting in exponentially improving the awareness of understanding the backbone of cultural differences in the future. The selected participants learn a competence to manage ongoing community conflicts through leadership training programme and subsequently immerse themselves in dealing with opposing ethnic groups including outside of the leadership programme by cooperating vegetable growing activities. Through this initiative, people can promote not only mutual understanding but learning the way of processing foods for preserving it longer or cooking easily which contributes to overcome the seasonal issues with serious shortage of food.
Training future leaders, learning methods to manage conflicts and other things without violence or co-working with different ethnic groups' people play an important role to prevent and reduce conflicts within and outside of the community.
Peacebuilding through business in Bosnia
BHcrafts, an enterprise in Bosnia, runs a business of handmade crafts by women from Bosnia and Herzegovina to improve both their lives and their families while also conducting a programme for training the youth to run business with cultural heritage.
BHcrafts is an enterprise which started after the highly destructive Bosnian War in 1995, it employed more than 500 women from Bosnia and Herzegovina who became victims of the war and lost their families or homes. BHcrafts decided to give these women opportunities to move forward by generating employment for them. This project contributes to helping women’s past and intercultural understanding between people in opposing sides by working together.
BHcrafts has also implemented 'Youth In Crafts' programme for 8 months since August 2018, targeting around 60 people aged 17 to 23 in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Through workshops, the youths can learn about social entrepreneurship on BHcrafts model, about filming videos to preserve cultural heritage and about their country's cultural heritage that can be economic resource. This programme's goal is to engage the youths in BHcrafts business. Through this programme, the young will be active, create self-employment opportunities, utilise cultural heritage as economic resource and preserve it for the future generations.
Let’s compare these cases.

The common thing is that they both make products with an aim to combat conflicts in the communities by cooperating activities. But they have 3 differences; whether they sell the products or not, the scale of impact and the requirements to implement the programme in Table 1.
Firstly, JCCP does not generate revenue from the products that participants make during the programme so they might lose job opportunities. On the contrary, BHcrafts generates profits and contributes to provide the job opportunities. According to World Development Report 2011, unemployment is one of the key factors that causes violent conflicts. The Bhcrafts' project therefore would contribute to conflict prevention as it offers job opportunities to people.
Secondly, the type of approach to prevent the conflicts is different. The impact of the JCCP programme can be measured by the increased number of the people who understand and accept opposing culture or perspective via training leaders, which would be exponentially expanding illustrated in Figure 1. This is because training leaders acts as influencers raising awareness in the communities. People around the leaders learn how to response to conflicts from their behaviors and even eventually admire their attitudes. In contrast, BHcrafts focuses on promoting the employees’ intercultural understanding rather than educating people across communities. People who can understand the cultural difference might be confined within the employees in Figure 2.
Figure 1: Impacts given by JCCP programme by author
Figure 2: impacts given by BHcrafts programme by author
Thirdly, what they need to implement the programme is different. JCCP programme needs to incentivise people to participate in the programme without salary. In other words, participants are required to be able to afford for their living expenditure during the programme. In contrast, the Bhcrafts creates job opportunities for the local under the condition that needs the established eco-system where company can run their business with sustainability in the country, for instance, accessibility to financial resources, labor force, material resources that would help them generate the profits.
Taking two cases as examples of peacebuilding by intercultural understanding there are many differences between the NGO and the enterprise. NGO projects do not create job opportunities, but it can exponentially improve an awareness. In contrast, enterprise might confine the number of participating people, however, they give job opportunities and contribute to the country's economy. If you are the practitioner aiming at prevailing in intercultural understanding, which would you like to choose, or to prefer hybrid?

State-sanctioned sexual violence against women in the Egyptian revolution

Following from last week's post, this is another video submitted as a piece of group work by some of last year's MSc VCD students....