States must take efforts to end discrimination based on sexual orientation, and gender identity

May 16, 2024

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Washington, D.C. / Geneva – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) together with the group of Special Rapporteurs, Independent Experts and Working Groups of the United Nations commemorate the international day against homophobia and transphobia. These human rights bodies call on states to redouble efforts to put an end to systemic discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The experts issued the following joint statement:

"The International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT), commemorated on 17 May, marks a celebration of sexual and gender diversity. This year's 20th anniversary is an opportunity to welcome progress and draw attention to violence and discrimination experienced by people based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

On 10 December 2023, the world celebrated the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The foundational promise of the declaration: "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights," has been a beacon of hope and rallying cry for all who experience violence, discrimination, and inequality throughout the world.

The theme of this year's IDAHOBIT celebration: "No one left behind: equality, freedom, and justice for all" evokes this core principle of equality and also alludes to the central, transformative promise of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its Sustainable Development Goals, namely: "Leave no one behind."

17 May is a day to celebrate the significant strides that have been made towards equality across the world, such as expanded legal gender recognition, decriminalisation of consensual same sex conduct and legal partnership recognition. This day is also a time to reflect on - and redouble efforts to end - violence and discrimination and hate speech based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Sadly, systemic discrimination and the threat, or direct experience, of violence remain a harsh reality for many throughout the world, undermining the realisation of their human rights, including the right to development with LGBT individuals facing heightened risks of being arbitrarily killed, including through State-sanctioned arbitrary executions in some countries. Particularly concerning is the proliferation of laws and policies that restrict fundamental freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association, often accompanied by hostile rhetoric arising from intolerance and bigotry.

Restrictions on public expression of identity, especially in a context of shrinking civil society space, contribute to an environment in which violence and discrimination occur with impunity. This is compounded by ongoing criminalisation of consensual same-sex conduct in more than 60 UN Member States.

Individuals who are socially and economically marginalised including on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity are more likely to experience specific vulnerabilities that come from homelessness, risks of poverty, risks of exposure to pollution, environmental degradation, climate impacts and toxics, and related structural impacts. Of particular concern are persons who face other forms of discrimination, such as older persons, persons with disabilities, persons of African descent, internally displaced persons, minorities, indigenous persons, migrants, refugees, and persons in armed conflicts.

This day is now celebrated in more than 130 countries and is officially recognised by several States, and international institutions. Reflecting on progress over the past two decades is indeed cause for celebration. We call on States to uphold the inherent dignity of all persons, without distinction, by addressing the root causes of discrimination and violence. Measured against the benchmark of "No one left behind: equality, freedom, and justice for all", it is also a reminder of just how much work still needs to be done, by all stakeholders, including business enterprises, to ensure an end to violence and discrimination directed against all individuals based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

The IACHR is a principal and autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), whose mandate stems from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has the mandate to promote the observance and defense of human rights in the region and acts as an advisory body to the OAS on the matter. The IACHR is made up of seven independent members who are elected by the OAS General Assembly in their personal capacity, and do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 105/24

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