Discussion summary: LGBTI rights in the security sector

Peace, Security & Defence

This is a summary of the recently concluded discussion on the seventh edition of Debating Security Plus (DS+). DS+ is a global online brainstorm that brings together a community of global security experts throughout the year to discuss the changing nature of warfare and its implication for global thinking on peace, security and defence.

The principle of non-discrimination, as well as the right to privacy, is enshrined in a number of international human rights instruments. However, while some countries have adopted laws and policies to promote equality and curtail discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity within the security sector, others are still reluctant to recognise equal rights for LGBTI+ people serving in their security organisations.

While some do not consider the provision of human rights and fundamental freedoms for LGBTI+ people in the security sector central to national security, Friends of Europe and EUROMIL reiterate our support for a more inclusive security sector which is open to those who are willing and able to serve. We have been pleased to host this important debate together and we will continue to promote LGTBI+ rights in the future.

Alex Araujo argued that if we still treat this issue as a taboo, narratives explaining the value of including LGTBI+ people in international security efforts will not appear. “People need to be sure that they will not be persecuted, that they will not be victims of prejudice. A lot of people have it. If there is a policy that demonstrates that they will be treated with whatever isonomy the public sector should meet, they would open up and the narratives would appear. We need to treat the issue with more respect for the people of the LGBT world.”

Freddy Van Eeckhout, Diversity Coordinator at Belgian Defence and Co-Founder of the Belgian Defence Rainbow Community, explained that although Belgium’s armed forces have accepted sexual and gender orientation protections policies in 2010 and 2014 that does not mean that the mentality of organisations has changed and that LGTBI+ persons have since experienced greater acceptance from their colleagues. Therefore, he encourages the creation of more LGTBI+ networks because when more advocacy groups and their members exist, it becomes more difficult to make them disappear.

Captain James Carrahar, a British Armed Forces officer, argued that real value comes from having a diverse team. He explained that the British Army’s esteem around the world for being an effective fighting force will reflect well on its status as an inclusive force, in turn highlighting the fact that diversity provides strength rather than undermines it.

Fidelma Ashe, a member of the Transitional Justice Research Institute at Ulster University, reminded us that LGTBI+ rights should not only be considered when building our security forces but must also play a key role during peace processes. “Political conflict invariably exacerbates pre-conflict sexual and gender inequalities. The historical trend has been to exclude these inequalities and the harms they engender in peace agreements. Only seven peace agreements provide for some form of equality protection on grounds of sexual orientation and/or gender identity. A peace-building agenda that includes and places a premium on sexual and gender equality helps support a post-conflict ethics of inclusion, diversity and difference. It helps shape a vision of peace that is positive for the entire society”.

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