Press Release

International Bisexual Visibility Day: Visibility as the First Step Toward Comprehensive Guarantees for Bisexual People’s Right to Mental Health

September 23, 2019

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Washington, D.C. - To mark International Bisexual Visibility Day, observed on September 23, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) wishes to state that bisexual people are at particular risk of suffering mental health problems because of the invisibility, stigmatization, and stress they may suffer in connection with their sexual orientation. It thus urges OAS member states to recognize and raise the profile of bisexuality as a sexual orientation and to guarantee bisexual people the right to live a life free from all forms of violence.

Because of their emotional or sexual attraction to people of both the same gender and a different gender, bisexual people’s sexual orientation is constantly called into question and their experience is often refuted. This distances these people from discussions around the rights and protections that are guaranteed to people of different sexual orientations, thus perpetuating a situation of invisibility that is evidenced in data collection, healthcare, and even within their own communities, in which bisexuality is often overlooked.

This invisibility is connected to the lack of data regarding the violence and discrimination to which bisexual people are subjected and the deterioration of their mental health. According to information obtained by the IACHR, bisexual people have shown an increased risk of suffering depression, anxiety, alcoholism, eating disorders, emotional stress, and even of dying as a result of suicide in comparison with gay and lesbian people.

On this point, Commissioner Flávia Piovesan, rapporteur on the rights of LGBTI persons, said that “the design and implementation of comprehensive measures to guarantee the right of bisexual persons to access healthcare services must begin by recognizing that they exist and making them more visible. Such measures should also observe inter-American standards on equality and nondiscrimination and take into account the different circumstances, personal characteristics, and factors that make bisexual people especially vulnerable to mental health problems.”

The IACHR deems that bisexuality is a sexual orientation that is protected under inter-American standards and that the invisibility to which bisexual people are often subjected has a direct impact on their mental health. As a first step toward remedying this, the IACHR urges OAS member states to guarantee the adoption of public policies and regulations that seek to combat social prejudice through awareness-raising programs on different sexualities. It also calls on states to promote comprehensive access to quality healthcare services in order to prevent bisexual people’s mental health from deteriorating and to guarantee that they can fully develop their life projects in a way that reflects their individual experience.

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. 236/19