Reconceptualising and contextualising sexual rights in the MENA region: beyond LGBTQI categories

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In recent years, LGBTQI rights have become central to debates around international development, human rights, refugee protection, and diversity. Yet research and experience in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) reveals significant problems with LGBTQI as a way of identifying individuals who do not conform to heterosexual and binary gender norms, in order to support their rights. In this article, we draw on experience of working to advance gender and sexual rights to illustrate the shortcomings of LGBTQI identity categories, and use findings from the Centre for Transnational Development and Collaboration’s (CTDC) four-year programme of research into LGBTQI rights in the MENA region to support our argument further. This research identified major problems in policies and debates on the rights of individuals whose sexual orientation and/or gender identity differs from the norm. In response to this, CTDC has developed a tool to address rights in programme development and advocacy, using a new approach, Sexual Practice and Gender Performance (SPGP), for work in the MENA region.