Keeping the Faith: Working at the Crossroads of Religion and Sexual and Gender Rights is a project of the Cape Town office of the Heinrich Boell Foundation that seeks to explore and support faith as a site for strengthening human rights and justice for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) people. On the one hand, faith does violence to those who do not conform to heteropatriarchal gender and sexual prescriptions. On the other, faith has the potential to advance struggles for sexual and gender rights and justice. Many LGBTIQ people seek to “keep their faith”, namely to claim their right to religious belief and expression even though their churches, mosques or synagogues might not recognise them nor uphold and respect their human rights. Others leave their religious communities as a result of the prejudice, discrimination and exclusion they confront. With these paradoxes of faith in mind, the project seeks to challenge normative discourses, values and behaviours – across a range of faith contexts – that legitimise and promote discrimination, prejudice and hatred against LGBTIQ people. In doing so, it aims to support existing and new initiatives that strengthen sexual and gender rights and counter marginalisation and violence. This discussion paper provides a snapshot of current issues, initiatives and central actors in the field; offers a conceptual framework to advance sexual and gender rights; and proffers some strategies to inform future work.
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