On 30 September 2015, in an unprecedented joint initiative, 12 United Nations entities called on States to act urgently to end violence and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTQI) adults, adolescents, and children. This is an opportunity for the United Nations (UN) to rebuild its picture among the LGBTQI community in the aftermath of the last Sustainable Development Goals Summit perceived by some as gay-unfriendly as a consequence of the exclusion of the LGBTQI people in the goals themselves and of the anti-gay declarations from some of the member states.
“This is the first time that so many members of the UN family have joined forces in defense of the basic rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people”, said Charles Radcliffe, the Chief of Global Issues for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). International human rights law establishes legal obligations on States to ensure that every person, without distinction, can enjoy the rights to live free from violence, persecution, discrimination, and stigma. However, the United Nations remains seriously concerned. Millions of LGBTQI individuals, those perceived as LGBTQI, and their families still face widespread human rights violations all around the world.
According to the United Nations, in at least 76 countries, discriminatory laws still criminalize private, consensual same-sex relationships, exposing millions of individuals to the risk of arrest, prosecution, and imprisonment. In at least five countries, homosexuality can even lead to death penalty. In addition to violate the fundamental rights for LGBTQI people, added UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, these punitive laws restrict the possibility for LGBTQI people to access critical HIV and other health services.
Such statement will support the defense of these basic rights for LGBTQI people. “While the symbolism of this is important, the practical recommendations we are putting forward are more important, pointed out Radcliffe. We hope this statement can provide a blueprint to Governments, as well as to UN teams on the ground in countries around the world”. Indeed, main points in the statement include the protection of individuals from violence and discrimination, the repealing of discriminatory laws, and measures to improve the monitoring, reporting and investigation of hate crimes.
The Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon applauded the agencies for “speaking in one voice”. “There are 17 sustainable development goals all based on a single, guiding principle: to leave no one behind. We will only realize this vision if we reach all people regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity”.
For the United Nations, the protection of the rights of LGBTQI people is fully linked to the progress towards achieving the new set of global development goals, such as the end of the epidemics of AIDS by 2030, that world leaders adopted during the summit. According to UNAIDS, new HIV infections in 2013 were estimated at 2.1 million and globally, gay men and other men who have sex with men are still 19 times more likely to be living with HIV than the general population.
Article written by IGLYO’s volunteer Nicolas Verheylewegen