While LGBTQ+ Americans have been subjected to numerous legislative attacks by Republican politicians recently, being queer is also a challenge in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, as most countries enact laws and policies that criminalize, stigmatize, and discriminate against queer people.

However, laws and policies are not the only problems, as being anti-LGBTQ+ has become an integral part of the cultural identity of many people in the MENA region. Like the American far-right, hating queer people has become a badge of honor.

Between 2018 and 2019, the Arab Barometer surveyed six MENA countries asking, “Is homosexuality an acceptable practice?” The highest country answering “yes” was Algeria at only 27%, with the rest ranging from 5% to 20%.

In recent years, MENA countries have been working on increasing this social discontent against queer people by detaching LGBTQ+ rights from the human rights discourse by framing it as a cultural issue. By doing so, those countries hope to absolve themselves from their human rights obligations towards their queer populations. While human rights are not negotiable, culture is relevant and diverse and must be respected.

As anti-LGBTQ+ sentiments continue to grow, it reflects the need for new advocacy strategies for LGBTQ+ rights in the region.

Some activists have already criticized the current strategies for being overly Western and called for reform based on critical analysis of the region’s context to produce more applicable strategies. Others point out that the region’s LGBTQ+ movement is still relatively new and only emerged in the past twenty years and needs more support to grow to combat the region’s anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric.

According to the Global Philanthropy Project (GPP), a philanthropy group that monitors global LGBTQ+ funding, the MENA region was the least funded globally at only $8.7 million annually in 2020. For comparison, this is the same price of one unit of an M1 Abrams tank, of which the US sold thousands, to MENA countries.

What LGBTQ+ people in the region need is a mix of reformed strategies and increased support to assist them with combating the ever-increasing anti-LGBTQ+ sentiments in their countries. That’s what American LGBTQ+ people need too.

Read the full article about fighting anti-LGBTQ+ extremism worldwide by Nora Noralla at LGBTQ Nation.