COVID-19 and protection of LGBTI people [fr]
Statement of the LGBTI Core Group on the occasion of the International Day agaisnt Homophobia, Biphobia, Interphobia and Transphobia - 17 May 2020
We have the honor to transmit this statement on behalf of the following Member States that are part of the UN LGBTI Core Group: Albania, Australia, Bolivia, Brazil, Cabo Verde, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Ecuador, El Salvador, France, Germany, Iceland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Montenegro, Mexico, Nepal, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Uruguay, the European Union Delegation to the United Nations, as well as the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the non-governmental organizations Human Rights Watch and Outright Action International. The UN LGBTI Core Group, an informal cross regional group established in 2008, is co-chaired by Argentina and The Netherlands. In addition to the Members of the UN LGBTI Core Group this statement is joined by Palau, Belize, Malta, Austria, North Macedonia, Belgium, Moldavia, Liechtenstein, Latvia, Ireland, Finland, Switzerland, Portugal, Denmark, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Georgia, Slovenia, Czech Republic, Panama, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Lithuania.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is clear: human rights are universal and should apply equally to all people everywhere. Today and every day the UN LGBTI Core Group works to address the silence around the ongoing discrimination against LGBTI people globally.
The ongoing public health crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has presented unprecedented challenges that affect the global community as a whole but additionally have a particular and unique effect on those who face multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination, including LGBTI persons. The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a human security crisis that is widespread in scope and impact, with survival, health, safety, economic security and human rights being endangered as a result. In order to truly address the impacts and consequences of the pandemic, the needs of those most vulnerable and most affected must be addressed.
We pay tribute to the social and health workers, civil society organizations and the UN System for the important efforts to tackle this crisis ensuring that no one is left behind, including LGBTI individuals. We also reiterate our support for the UN Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and supports his contention that actions must not target LGBTI persons in the guise of protecting health and that the use of emergency powers should be strictly limited to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
Emergency responses, or measures, must be made in accordance with international law, including human rights law and should be guided by the principles of democracy, rule of law, gender equality, inclusivity and equity. When we come out of this crisis, we must ensure that our standards have not shifted in a negative direction.
Even prior to the current COVID-19 pandemic, LGBTI persons have often faced violence and discrimination that impede their full enjoyment of Human Rights. Many are already left behind, as consensual adult same sex activities are still criminalized in a third of the countries in the world, trans and gender non-conforming persons are pathologized in many countries, and acts of hatred directed toward LGBTI persons are generally not prosecuted. To that extent, we recall that only 30 years ago, the World Health Organization removed homosexuality from its International Classification of Diseases. While LGBTI persons share common experiences of marginalization based on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and sex characteristics, many also face intersecting forms of discrimination based on gender, age, race, ethnicity, religion or believe, ability, socioeconomic status, migration status, and other factors that drive exclusion. This has been made even clearer during the COVID-19 pandemic.
We welcome the statement of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on targeted actions needed to protect LGBTI people amid the pandemic. Also, United Nations Experts on Human Rights have stated that LGBTI and gender diverse persons need support from governments and should not be discriminated against. The needs of those facing multiple and intersecting forms of vulnerability during the COVID-19 crisis must be addressed. For example older LGBTI persons who may face challenges in terms of financial security, access to healthcare and support from family members and other support systems are in an especially vulnerable situation. This crisis is not an excuse to violate the human rights of those who are most affected. Moreover, we condemn those who are targeting the LGBTI community with hate speech, discriminatory measures, and in some cases violence, scapegoating LGBTI individuals or groups for the pandemic which is affecting these populations in disproportionate ways.
Certain LGBTI populations are suffering from health conditions that exacerbate the morbidity and mortality rate of COVID-19. These underlying conditions can be worsened by social and psychological factors, including, but not limited to, high rates of homelessness, substance use and the psychological and physiological effects of social stigma on LGBTI individuals. High percentages of depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts place LGBTI individuals at a particular disadvantage in the wake of COVID-19, as many are forced into lockdown with unsupportive family members, are denied access to safe spaces, and can be exposed to domestic violence.
Restrictions on the freedom of movement may impede access to medical treatment and care. This affects individuals on chronic medication, as well as transgender and intersex individuals who may have specific health requirements. Equal access to medicines, vaccines and medical equipment must be ensured.
The economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic have worsened already fragile economic structures, and those most impacted are individuals who already faced discrimination in gaining access to formal employment and within the workplace. Social distancing policies and increased unemployment have a direct and severe impact on the LGBTI community, who historically faces economic discrimination. A high percentage of LGBTI individuals around the globe are low-income or working in the informal sector, and as a result of the rampant economic downturn caused by COVID-19 and the lack of sustainable structure to maintain economic well-being in times of crisis, these at-risk individuals are thrown into greater depths of poverty. The economic suffering of the global community directly connects to physical and emotional wellbeing, or lack thereof, and action must be taken to protect those in the most vulnerable situation.
It is critical that domestic and global responses to COVID-19 are mindful of the intersecting needs of LGBTI people. Governments must ensure that international human rights are at the center of all COVID-19 responses and that no one is left behind. Response plans must identify and put in place targeted measures to address the disproportionate impact of the virus on marginalized groups, including LGBTI individuals. This is an opportune moment to reassess and evaluate normative structures that bar certain groups and individuals from safety, resources and wellness, and find practical ways to apply the values affirmed in our international human rights treaties and constitutions equally. This is an opportunity to adequately respond to COVID 19 pandemic for everyone, including for LGBTI individuals.