Press Release

The IACHR Calls Member States to Ensure Respect of the Rights of LGTBI Persons by Public Officials

May 17, 2013

Washington, D.C. – On the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) urges OAS Member States to adopt measures to ensure that its public officials respect the rights of persons with diverse sexual orientations and gender identities and expressions in societies across the Americas. Public officers must respect the spaces where the claims made by human rights defenders are duly debated, considered and decided. The IACHR strongly recommends that, where these spaces do not exist, the State promote their existence as means of ensuring ensure democratic and pluralistic societies across the Hemisphere.

The IACHR has received information that points to a rise in negative discourse by public officials in different OAS Member States against lesbian, gay, trans, bisexual and intersex persons, and against those who defend their rights. These statements and actions by public officials –including some officials in charge of promoting human rights- have the effect of undermining the recognition of the rights of lesbian, gay, trans, bisexual and intersex persons, imperiling them and those who defend their rights, and hindering democratic debate. As the Inter-American Court has stated, even when official speech might not have authorized, instigated, ordered, instructed, or directly promoted the violence against victims, it may often put them in a situation of greater vulnerability before the State and some sectors of society. The IACHR recalls that because of its link with the dignity, liberty, and equality of all human beings, speech that expresses one’s own sexual orientation and gender identity is part of a category of specially protected speech under Article 13 of the American Convention.

Further, the work of human rights defenders is critical for building a solid and lasting democratic society. Human rights defenders play a leading role in the process of fully attaining the rule of law and the strengthening of democracy. Acts of violence, whether physical or verbal, perpetrated against human rights defenders not only affect the guarantees that belong to all human beings; they also undermine the essential role human rights defenders play in society and contribute to the vulnerability of all those whose rights they champion. In its Second Report on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders in the Americas, the IACHR noted the large number of reports regarding murders, threats and criminalization of activities carried out by human rights defenders of LGTBI persons. Also, the Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression has recalled that public servants have the duty to ensure that their statements do not infringe upon the rights of those who contribute to the public discourse through the expression and dissemination of their thoughts, such as human rights organizations.

The IACHR urges OAS Member States to contribute decisively to the building of a climate of tolerance and respect in which all people, including lesbian, gay, trans, bisexual and intersex persons and those who defend their rights, can express their thoughts and opinions without fear of being attacked, punished, or stigmatized for doing so.

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 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. 37/13