States must tackle racism and stigma against LGBT persons

May 16, 2023

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Washington, D.C. / Geneva – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) together with the group of Special Rapporteurships, Independent Experts and Working Groups of the United Nations Special Procedure recalls the international day against homophobia and transphobia. These human rights bodies call on states to address racism and stigma against LGBT people. The experts issued the following joint statement:

"We call on States to uphold the inherent dignity of all persons, without any distinction, by adopting measures to eradicate racial discrimination, exclusion, intolerance, hatred, bigotry, violence, and stigmatisation of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and gender diverse (LGBT) persons.

Racialization, ethnicity, age, colour, disability, national and residential and socio-economic status expose LGBT persons to different forms of discrimination that affect their ability to enjoy their human rights and fundamental freedoms without distinction of any kind. To adequately analyse how structural inequalities lead to violence and exposure to risk, it is a must to adopt an intersectional approach. While some people are privileged, most face discrimination and violence, including arbitrary displacement, because of their multiple intersecting identities.

In the few contexts in which systematic data collection exists, it strongly suggests that the intersection of anti-Blackness and LGBT-phobia creates additional barriers to the full inclusion of Black LGBT persons in society. Similar dynamics affect other discriminated or racialized groups, such as Arab, Asian, Latin American, and Middle Eastern persons, persons of African or Pacific descent, as well as Indigenous Peoples, minorities, migrant persons, refugees, and asylum seekers. These factors are exacerbated for people who are sexually and/or gender diverse and for those defending their rights, where the lack of intersectional approaches often precludes culturally relevant engagement, public participation without fear of reprisal, necessary comprehensive medical care, and even respect for autonomy. 

The persistence of gender inequality and a lack of understanding of sexual and gender diversities drive prejudice in culture and discrimination in laws and policies in a range of country contexts. Challenging historic exclusion and more contemporary regressions by breaking stereotypes and ensuring civil society's access to financial resources, including laws, policies and practices that impede such access is a must for the global human rights agenda. Traditional beliefs and practices must not be invoked to deny equal rights.

Businesses have also the responsibility to address intersectional harms experienced by individuals, including people with non-binary identities, and to take social justice into consideration as part of their human rights responsibilities under the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. It is not enough to commit to equality and diversity initiatives; these must be accompanied by human rights due diligence assessments that bring non-discrimination to practice.

Disaggregated data on lesbian and bisexual women, trans men, and gender diverse individuals, based on their descent, colour or ethnic origin is virtually non-existent in all latitudes of the world, but the scarce existing evidence suggests that they experience disproportionately higher rates of discrimination, violence, and insecurity. Widespread State and non-State violence against trans women based on their colour, for example, is a powerful example of necropolitics in action. Likewise, the disproportionate representation of LGBT youths and older persons of colour and Indigenous persons in homelessness clearly exemplifies racism and age as determinants of economic, social and political social exclusion.

To achieve true equality, States must adopt an intersectional, non-binary approach that addresses the needs of the LGBT population in its full diversity and involves them in the development of policies that affect them. This includes, where data security is guaranteed, collecting disaggregated data that takes into account their declared race, ethnicity and social status, developing a broader and authentic understanding of how racism and LGBT-phobia intersect, addressing racial and ethnic disparities in access to goods, facilities and services for LGBT and gender diverse individuals, and understanding the impact and legacy of colonialism on inequalities within and between countries, nation-building and the exclusion of these populations. Businesses must also incorporate an intersectional perspective to provide equal opportunities and eliminate discrimination in their activities.

For all of these reasons, we also reiterate today our conviction that sexual orientation and gender identity remain indispensable entry points for an adequate analysis of discrimination and violence and the path to its eradication."

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 087/23

8:30 AM