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Leave no LGBT person behind

Statement by human rights experts on the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia –
17 May 2018

Banjul/Geneva/Strasbourg/Washington, D.C., 16 May 2018

On the eve of the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia on 17 May, a group of United Nations and international human rights experts*, celebrating the 70th year of the of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 70th year of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, urge States and other stakeholders to adopt all necessary measures to ensure that the obligation of all States to address violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity remains firmly included in the 2030 agenda, and to include lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) persons, communities and populations in the design, implementation and evaluation of all related policies.

Significant progress is being made in the protection of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and gender non-conforming persons from violence and discrimination. Implementation remains nonetheless partial and uneven: reports of violence and harassment are still the norm in all regions of the world, LGBT people face laws criminalising same-sex relations and gender expression in 72 countries, only one third of States of the world have laws to protect from discrimination based on sexual orientation, and only around 10% of nations have laws that protect from discrimination based on gender identity.

As a result, trans, gender non-conforming, and LGB persons affected by multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination (including based on age, gender, ethnicity, disability and social status), are suffering from the lack of access to their economic, social, and cultural rights, and are being effectively left behind. Discrimination against LGBT persons fuels the spiral of violence to which they are subjected daily and creates an environment conducive to their exclusion from opportunity in all facets of life, including education and political and civic participation, and contributing to economic instability, homelessness, and ill health. The development commitments of the international community, placed in the frame of the Sustainable Development Goals, demands that immediate attention be given to ensuring that the systematic exclusion of these groups, communities and populations be addressed: to make sure that no one is left behind, actions must be taken to tear down the systematic barriers that exclude LGBT persons from the benefits of the development agenda.

For example, the rates of poverty, homelessness and food insecurity are higher among LGBT individuals than in the wider community, a situation that bears direct relation with SDGs 1, 8, 10 and 11, the targets of which include ensuring “that all men and women, in particular the poor and the vulnerable, have equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to basic services” and creating “sound policy frameworks at the national, regional and international levels, based on pro-poor and gender-sensitive development strategies.”

Laws criminalising homosexuality, the pathologisation of trans and non-binary people and other forms of violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity shape the attitudes, policies and practices of health-care institutions and personnel, and therefore perpetuate stigma and deter individuals from seeking services and may lead to denial of proper access to their right to health. Branding LGBT persons as ill based on their sexual orientation or gender identity has been, and continues to be, one of the root causes of the human rights violations that they face, including forced treatments such as so-called “conversion therapies”. Addressing these challenges bears strong relation with several international human rights standards and the furtherance of SDG 3, concerning good health and well-being and the targets of which include “access to quality essential health-care services”.

LGBT persons are also systematically excluded from quality education, the subject matter of SDG 4, as a result of harassment, violent abuse and even being thrown out of schools. In all regions of the world bullying based on real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity is commonplace, resulting in desertion rates are significantly higher for LGBT persons. This, in turn, deepens exclusion from economic opportunities. In this sense, States have an obligation to ensure that their policies of education are specially designed to modify social patterns and cultural behaviour, counteract prejudice and customs, and to eradicate practices based on stereotypes related to LGBT persons that can legitimise or exacerbate the violence by prejudice.

Without urgent measures to address violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, the international community will fail to comply with their international human rights law obligations and deliver on the promise not to leave anyone behind in the implementation of the SDGs. Urgent responses are required from State actors, including legislative, judicial and executive, as well as national human rights institutions, and non-State actors such as civil society, faith-based communities, the media, workers’ organizations, and the private sector. Those responses will rely on the capacity building and international cooperation prescribed by SDG 17, and also the resolution of cross-cutting concerns, among which the availability of “high-quality, timely and reliable data disaggregated by income, gender, age, race, ethnicity, migratory status, disability, geographic location and other characteristics relevant in national contexts” that is one of its targets, and ensuring that disaggregated data collection and management are implemented in strict compliance with human rights standards, as an effective measures to prevent, punish, and eradicate violence against LGBT persons, and for formulating any needed policy changes.

States must urgently repeal discriminatory laws, adopt protective legislation, reform institutions and implement policies to combat discrimination and ensure the effective inclusion of LGBT persons, as well as ensure effective access to justice, including remedy, and diligent investigations of killings and other acts of violence and discrimination against LGBT persons who face violence and discrimination.

ENDS

(*) The experts:

Sub-Committee on Prevention of Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (SPT)

UN independent experts: Mr. Philip Alston, Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights; Ms. Koumbou Boly Barry, Special Rapporteur on the right to education, Ms. Hilal Elver, Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Ms. Leilani Farha, Special Rapporteur on adequate housing, Mr. Victor Madrigal-Borloz, Independent Expert on sexual orientation and gender identity, Mr. Nils Melzer, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Mr. Dainius Pῡras, Special Rapporteur on the right to health; Ms. Dubravka Šimonović, Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, and the Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice

Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR)

African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR): Mr. Lawrence M. Mute, Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa; Vice Chairperson of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights

Council of Europe (CoE): Ms. Dunja Mijatović, Commissioner for Human Rights