Press Release

On International Bisexual Visibility Day, the IACHR calls on States to guarantee the right to mental health of bisexual persons

September 23, 2020

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Washington, D.C. - On International Bisexual Visibility Day, observed on September 23, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) calls on the States of the region to guarantee the right to mental health of bisexual persons, who often face invisibility in the formulation of public policies relating to Human Rights, particularly, the right to health and access to mental health services.

The Commission has repeatedly established that the principle of equality and non-discrimination constitutes one of the fundamental bases of the inter-American system for the protection of Human Rights. In light of this principle, sexual orientation, including bisexuality, is a category protected against all forms of discrimination. Consequently, no domestic regulation, decision, or practice, whether by State authorities or individuals, may diminish or restrict, in any way whatsoever, the rights of bisexual persons on the basis of their sexual orientation.

However, the IACHR has noted that the lived experiences and the very sexual orientation of bisexual persons -who have different degrees of emotional, affective, or sexual attraction for people of the same or different genders- is constantly made invisible and questioned. This, in spite of the fact that, according to studies, bisexual persons may represent a majority among the population with diverse sexual orientations.

As a result, bisexual persons are at an increased risk of suffering from depression, anxiety, alcoholism, eating disorders, emotional stress, and death by suicide, as compared to lesbian women and gay men. The Commission notes that this may be exacerbated by the intersection of other factors, such as ethnic-racial background, gender identity, age, disability, poverty, and the ongoing challenges in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, one survey found that only 5% of young people who identify as bisexual reported living a 'very happy' life, compared to 21% of young people who do not identify as LGB.

The IACHR considers that such challenges highlight the need for a specific approach that guarantees the mental health of bisexual persons. However, research shows that mental health professionals often do not have the right tools to address the specific needs of bisexual persons; as a result, they provide treatment to LGBTI persons as a homogeneous group.

In light of this, the Commission urges OAS member States to adopt public policies that promote awareness, at all levels - including the mental healthcare sector - of diverse sexual orientations, bringing visibility to the lived experiences and needs of bisexual persons. Furthermore, the IACHR calls on States to implement decisive measures that prevent the deterioration of mental health, as well as death by suicide, among bisexual persons, ensuring that they can fully develop their projects of life, based on their own individual experiences.

The IACHR reiterates that, according to Inter-American standards, States have the obligation to respect and guarantee the rights of LGBTI persons; in that vein, it urges States to observe the specific recommendations on the human rights of LGBTI persons in the context of the pandemic, as contained in its Resolution 1-2020 and Press Release 81/2020. Finally, the Commission reiterates its commitment to provide technical cooperation in this area to the States of the region.

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. 226/20