Experiences of minority stress among lesbian and bisexual women in Rwanda

Patricia Moreland, Rebecca White, Ellen D.B. Riggle, Darius Gishoma, Tonda L. Hughes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Research conducted in high-income countries has documented substantial health disparities among sexual minority women (SMW; lesbian, bisexual, and other nonheterosexual women). However, little is known about the health of SMW in low-income countries where stigma and minority stressors are likely much more pervasive. Guided by the question, "What are the minority stress experiences of SMW in Rwanda?", we conducted qualitative interviews with 20 women in Rwanda who identified as lesbian or bisexual. Participants were recruited using social network and snowball sampling methods. SMW in the study reported on the impact of internalized stigma related to their sexual attractions or identity. Participants reported multiple forms of external stigma and discrimination at work and school, in churches and communities, and in their families. Experiences of sexual harassment and physical and sexual assault were also commonly reported. In this stigmatizing context, women in the study made decisions about disclosing their sexual identity- or their identity was disclosed by others. Participants coped with minority stressors by hiding or lying about their sexual identities, seeking social support, and accepting their minority sexual orientation. To promote the health of SMW in Rwanda and in other parts of the world, affirmative strategies targeting individuals, families, communities, and social cultures are needed. Psychologists, nurses, physicians, and other health and mental health service providers can also play a pivotal role by educating themselves and others about sexual minorities and the factors that negatively impact the health of this population.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)196-211
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Perspectives in Psychology: Research, Practice, Consultation
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 American Psychological Association.


  • Africa
  • Lesbian and bisexual women
  • Minority stress
  • Rwanda
  • Sexual minority women

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Applied Psychology


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