The Impact of COVID-19 on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Rights

27 April 2020

The Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights has released a guidance note on the impact of COVID-19 of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Intersex  (LGBTI) people during the COVID-19 lockdown, and the actions States should be taking to ensure their rights are not compromised.

The guidance explains how people living with compromised immune systems, including people living with HIV/AIDS, face a greater risk from COVID-19. In addition, LGTBI people who are homeless, are less able to protect themselves through physical distancing and safe hygiene practices, increasing their exposure to contagion. Furthermore, many young LGBTI people will be forced into isolation with families who are unsupportive, and in some cases violent and abusive.

Priority issues facing LGBTI communities highlighted in the guidance are:

  • Access to health services
  • Deprioritisation of required health services
  • Stigmatisation, discrimination, hate speech and attacks on the LGBTI community
  • Domestic violence and abuse
  • Access to work and livelihood

Beyond calling for greater awareness of the specific issues facing LGBTI people amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the guidance provides six key actions that States and other stakeholders can take to protect the rights of LGBTI people an ensure they will not suffer disproportionately.

The full list of actions is available here.

Letter from the UN’s Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity

UN Independent Expert, Victor Madrigal-Borloz, has written an open letter expressing his solidarity with the global LGBTI community, and the organisations working on the frontline to provide services and support. The Independent Expert recognises the unprecedented challenges faced by LGBT people, who are some of the most marginalized and excluded because of stigma and discrimination, and are among those most at risk. The Independent Expert is encouraging ongoing dialogue with his office on issues affecting the LGTBI community throughout the crisis.

UNAIDS warns Governments to not use the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse for repression of LGBT groups

UNAIDS has raised concerns that the COVID-19 epidemic is being used as an excuse to target marginalized and vulnerable populations, restrict civil society space and increase police powers. In particular, UNAIDS is extremely concerned by reports of new laws that restrict rights and freedoms and target criminalized groups in a manner that will harm the rights and health of people living with or vulnerable to HIV.

Resources from the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Intersex Association (ILGA)

ILGA World has shared a list of resources for LGBT people in lockdown to consider options for remote working, and safeguarding wellbeing. For remote working, ILGA has tips on digital, emotional and physical health, video conferencing resources, and location anonymization platforms.

ILGA Europe has developed a three-part plan to support the LGBTI movement through the Covid-19 crisis: Protect, Adapt, and Rally. The plan incorporates a number of useful resources detailing the impact of COVID-19 on LGBTI communities; how LGBTI activists can stay safe online, and the human rights obligations of States in the context of COVID-19.

Resources from GATE

GATE, an international organisation working on gender identity, gender expression and body diversity has put together a comprehensive COVID-19 related list of resources for trans, gender diverse, and intersex communities.

Country-specific reports on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic

News reports from across the Commonwealth have so far shown that COVID-19, and State’s implementation of measures to stop the virus, are exacerbating existing issues faced by LGBTI communities. This includes areas such as mental health, access to health services, housing provision, and access to employment.

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