Towards Inclusivity in Disaster Management: Reflections on Challenges Faced by LGBTQ+ Communities in Disaster Situation

Tejal Deora
Session Report

The Complicated Relationship between Queer Communities and the State

Dr. Lavanya Shanbhogue talked about inclusivity in disaster management, focusing on the challenges faced by queer communities in disaster and conflict situations. Dr. Shanbhogue draws attention to the complicated relationship between queer communities and the state, noting that despite the fact that the state frequently plays a major role in disaster relief efforts, there has historically been discrimination and oppression of queer communities by the state. Her objectives are to highlight the importance of recording the experiences of queer communities in disaster situations and to promote constructive policy changes based on empirical evidence.

Disasters and the Vulnerabilities Faced by Marginalized Groups

Dr. Shanbhogue discusses the idea of disasters and how they are described as catastrophic events that cause great harm and go beyond what communities can handle. Dr. Shanbhogue points out that marginalized groups, such as queer communities, experience more severe effects as a result of preexisting vulnerabilities and the uneven distribution of disaster effects. Human activities have increased the frequency and severity of natural hazard events in the Anthropocene era, further highlighting the differential vulnerability felt by different social groups.

Shifting Focus

Discipline of disaster management has changed from a sole focus on the natural environment to taking into account the local cultural context and histories of affected populations. This change emphasizes how crucial it is to comprehend disasters’ social, physical, economic, and political dimensions, particularly in light of queer identities. Dr. Shanbhogue emphasizes how diverse and heterogeneous queer communities are, including a variety of gender identities and sexual orientations. Because of this, it is essential to take into account their unique experiences, daily social interactions, proximity to physical dangers, and the intricate dynamics of state-citizen relationships in disaster situations.

Challenges Faced by Queer Communities throughout the Disaster Management Cycle

Dr. Shanbhogue argues that disaster and conflict are not experienced equally by different social groups, and vulnerability and resilience vary across these groups. The impacts of disasters are not an equalizer but rather further deepen existing inequalities. Factors such as gender, ethnicity, race, class, income, disability, and queer identities intersect to shape differential vulnerabilities and experiences during disasters.

Throughout the disaster management cycle, from response to recovery, the challenges faced by queer communities are highlighted. These challenges include exclusion from evacuation processes, inadequate housing and shelter options due to binary policies, loss of medical support, lack of documentation leading to exclusion from beneficiary lists, and biased relief and reconstruction assistance. Existing guidelines and policies frequently fall short of addressing the particular requirements and needs of LGBTQI+ groups, creating a policy vacuum and an environment that is insensitive to the needs of queer communities in disaster management.

Dr. Shanbhogue takes examples from various geographical areas, such as Hurricane Katrina in the United States, the summer heatwave in Europe, and the tsunami that struck the Indian Ocean, to highlight the universal nature of the problems queer communities face in disasters. These instances show discriminatory practices, attributing disasters, gender-based violence, and the destruction of queer spaces to queer communities. Different contexts continue to have exclusive policies and to marginalize queer identities.

Conclusion

Dr. Shanbhogue highlights the significance of collecting empirical data, promoting good policy changes, and documenting queer communities’ experiences in disaster situations in her concluding remarks. Dr. Shanbhogue draws attention to the need for an inclusive strategy for disaster management that considers queer communities’ unique needs and vulnerabilities in addition to the binary understanding of gender that is commonly used. Society can work to create a more inclusive and equitable environment for disaster management by recognising and addressing these challenges.

Read more session reports from Day 5 of Beyond Binaries: Understanding Sexual Identities and Queer Rights Issues in India

Contemporary Legal & Judicial Proceedings & Way Forward