“The history of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and gender diverse (LGBTIQ+) people, like other victims of discrimination and violence, has been one of suffering, endurance and hope - a vital struggle for freedom and equality in the face of singular adversity. Every day, hundreds and thousands of people around the world are killed, beaten, tortured and mistreated because of who they are, who they love or for whom do they feel sexual desire. Millions are simply excluded without the tools to participate in the social fabric”
Unlike other areas of human rights and struggles for justice, such as women rights, children’s rights or disability rights, there are no broad-based internationally ratified UN Conventions or Treaties to protect individuals, persons and communities that identify as being gender and sexuality diverse. Protection is broad and general, captured under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The first sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) rights resolution was only adopted in 2011, marking a significant turning point in SOGI rights and protections. Despite these advances, large gaps remain especially for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Gender Diverse (LGBTIQ+) individuals and communities from minority communities, such as Roma, Indigenous persons and other minority groups. Violence, discrimination, abuse and harassment are everyday experiences for gender and sexuality diverse people and for those from minority communities, such as young LGBTIQ+ people, Indigenous LGBTIQ+ persons, and these experiences are intensified through having to endure ongoing racism and racial micro-aggressions.
In 2016, the Human Rights Council created the mandate of an Independent Expert, through Resolution 32/2. The aim of the mandate is to protect and promote the rights of sexual orientation and gender identity for people who belong to the LGBTIQ+ communities. The ongoing violence, discrimination and victimisation of LGBTIQ+ communities in all spheres of life have resulted in severe suffering, whereby LGBTIQ+ communities have long been the target of State, community and everyday abuse, aggression and exclusion within their families and households. Globally, even today, while there have been some advances in some parts of the world, such as marriage equality, there has simultaneously been, in other parts of the world, an active campaign of criminalisation, punishment and surveillance of LGBTIQ+ persons and their communities. A recent example in Ghana, proposes an Anti-LGBTIQ+ bill via the language of family values. As the UN notes, these type of state laws are a ‘recipe for violence’, active stigmatisation, abuse and discrimination against LGBTIQ+ peoples and their communities (UN 12 August 2021).
In the last twenty years, state and/or communal violence against LGBTIQ+ peoples and communities has been on the rise in many countries. Even in places like Ukraine, where same-sex practices were decriminalised in 1992, there have been growing communal campaigns to wind State initiatives, legislation and policy to further promote and protect the rights of the Ukrainian LGBTIQ+ community (UN 2019). In actual fact, Ukraine is a good example of where State legislation and institutions may, at one stage, have publicly advanced LGBTIQ+ rights whilst endorsing LGTBIQ+ civil society campaigns for justice, rights and equality. Yet the Ukraine government and legislation are now silent due to ongoing pressure by religion-based organisations, homophobic and transphobic political parties who are hostile to sexuality and gender diverse peoples and communities. The State has been captured by these interests. Rather than address existing loopholes in the law or implement further measures to protect LGBTIQ+ communities from violence, abuse and discrimination, States tend to refuse or do not pursue the prosecution of violators, nor actively deter violence, discrimination and abuse against LGBTIQ+ communities.
While there have been some strong gains in parts of the world, the rights of LGBTIQ+ in vast parts of the world are in desperate need to be both strengthened in legislation and promoted through State programs and institutions. Many States still promote homophobia and transphobia actively or remain silent due to pressures from conservative and religious beliefs. And a strong social justice legal framework needs to be embedded within the international human rights system to ensure that people who identify as LGBTIQ+ and their communities may live without violence, abuse and discrimination. For related videos please click here.