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States Must Include LGBT Community In COVID-19 Response: The How And Why From A UN Expert

Governments worldwide must ensure COVID-19 emergency measures do not worsen inequalities or structural barriers faced by people with diverse sexual orientations and gender identities, or lead to increased violence and discrimination against them, a UN expert said today. He was speaking ahead of the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOBIT) on 17 May 2020.

“Lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans-and gender-diverse people, who are disproportionately represented in the ranks of the poor, the homeless, and those without healthcare, will be deeply impacted by the pandemic and, unless we take urgent action, this impact will be felt over generations,” said the Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, Víctor Madrigal-Borloz, in a key Joint Statement published today.

“This historical statement, signed by 96 United Nations and international human rights experts, forcefully recognises that the struggle against the COVID-19 pandemic is not waged on a level playing field,” he said. Criminalisation laws, still existing in 70 countries, created higher risk of police abuse and arbitrary arrest and detention during curfews, and hindered meaningful data collection.

“For example, even when gay men and trans women comprise a significant proportion of those living with HIV-induced compromised immune systems at higher risk of developing severe symptoms of COVID-19, criminalisation, stigma and discrimination will likely make it impossible to fully document and analyse the impact of the pandemic,” the Independent Expert said.

He noted the pandemic is being used in some countries as an excuse for persecution. “Some States have enacted measures which intentionally target LGBT persons and communities under the guise of public health, including proposing legislation to deny trans- and gender-diverse persons of their legal recognition.”

Madrigal-Borloz said that States should ensure that pandemic-related measures are not discriminatory and are designed with the participation of LGBT communities, and ensure accountability for arbitrariness and abuse.

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