Experiences of gender-based violence among female sex workers, men who have sex with men, and transgender women in Latin America and the Caribbean: a qualitative study to inform HIV programming.BMC Int Health Hum Rights. 2019 03 05; 19(1):9.BI
Female sex workers, MSM, and transgender women-collectively referred to as key populations (KPs)-are disproportionately affected by gender-based violence (GBV) and HIV, yet little is known about the violence they face, its gender-based origins, and responses to GBV. The purpose of this study was to understand the nature and consequences of GBV experienced, to inform HIV policies and programming and to help protect KPs' human rights.
Using a participatory approach, FSWs, MSM, and transgender women in Barbados, El Salvador, Trinidad and Tobago, and Haiti conducted 278 structured interviews with peers to understand their experiences of and responses to GBV. Responses to open-ended questions were coded in NVivo and analyzed using an applied thematic analysis.
Nearly all participants experienced some form of GBV. Emotional and economic GBV were the most commonly reported but approximately three-quarters of participants reported sexual and physical GBV and other human rights violations. The most common settings for GBV were at home, locations where sex work took place such as brothels, bars and on the street; public spaces such as parks, streets and public transport, health care centers, police stations and-for transgender women and MSM-religious settings and schools. The most common perpetrators of violence included: family, friends, peers and neighbors, strangers, intimate partners, sex work clients and other sex workers, health care workers, police, religious leaders and teachers. Consequences included emotional, physical, and sexual trauma; lack of access to legal, health, and other social services; and loss of income, employment, housing, and educational opportunities. Though many participants disclosed experiences of GBV to friends, colleagues and family, they rarely sought services following violence. Furthermore, less than a quarter of participants believed that GBV put them at risk of HIV.
Our study found that across the four study countries, FSWs, MSM, and transgender women experienced GBV from state and non-state actors throughout their lives, and much of this violence was directly connected to rigid and harmful gender norms. Through coordinated interventions that address both HIV and GBV, this region has the opportunity to reduce the national burden of HIV while also promoting key populations' human rights.