LGBT rights being ‘deliberately undermined’, in some US states: UN expert

30 August 2022

An independent UN human rights expert on Tuesday warned that the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and gender diverse (LGBT) people are being “deliberately undermined by some state governments in the United States”, urging more action on the part of the Biden administration to protect them.

“Despite five decades of progress, equality is not within reach, and often not even within sight, for all persons impacted by violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in the United States,’’ said Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the UN Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Mr. Madrigal-Borloz presented his conclusions following a10-day visit to Washington DC, Birmingham, Alabama; Miami, Florida; and San Diego, California.

While there, according to a press release issued by human rights office, OHCHR,  he met officials from each state, members of civil society, and others who shared their experiences.

He said those in the LGBT community, particularly persons of colour, continue to face significant inequality in relation to health, education, employment, and housing, as well as being disproportionately impacted by violence. 

Although significant measures have been adopted by the Biden administration to address these challenges, they remain “under a concerted attack.”

‘Negative riptide’

“I am deeply alarmed by a widespread, profoundly negative riptide created by deliberate actions to roll back the human rights of LGBT people at state level,” he said, noting that these include deeply discriminatory measures seeking to rebuild stigma against lesbian and gay persons, limiting comprehensive sexual and gender education for all, and access to gender-affirming treatment, sports and single-sex facilities for trans and gender diverse persons.

“The evidence shows that, without exception, these actions rely on prejudiced and stigmatising views of LGBT persons, in particular transgender children and youth, and seek to leverage their lives as props for political profit”, the independent expert said.

Mr. Madrigal-Borloz also met authorities at a detention centre holding asylum seekers and the entry port of San Ysidro in the border with Mexico, expressing concern that LGBT asylum seekers and refugees “continue to suffer the consequences of discriminatory frameworks adopted by the previous administration and not yet dismantled”, according to the press release.

He noted the US had played a central role in the design and adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “which has provided a compass toward a world in which all persons see their dignity respected and live free and equal.”

‘Thoughtful strategy’

“The Biden-Harris administration has adopted powerful and meaningful actions that are in conformity with international human rights law, reveal a thoughtful strategy created through participative approaches, and provide significant capacity for their implementation. This is exactly the combination of values, knowledge, and muscle that can drive social change.

“In light of a concerted attack to undermine these actions, I exhort the administration to redouble its efforts to support the human rights of all LGBT persons living under its jurisdiction, and helping them to safe waters,’’ he said. 

Special Rapporteurs and independent experts are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a specific human rights theme or a country situation. The positions are honorary and the experts are not paid for their work.

St Kitts and Nevis decriminalizes gay sex

The UN agency working to end the AIDS pandemic, UNAIDS, on Tuesday welcomed a ruling in the St. Kitts and Nevis High Court that laws criminalizing gay sex are unconstitutional.

The landmark decision means that the laws have immediately been struck from the Caribbean islands’ legal code, which remained in place following independence from the United Kingdom in 1983.

The Court upheld the plaintiffs’ claim that Sections 56 and 57 of the Offences Against the Person Act, violated the right to privacy and freedom of expression.

‘Everyone benefits’

“This landmark ruling is an important step forward in ensuring equality and dignity for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in St. Kitts and Nevis and the whole Caribbean,” said Luisa Cabal, UNAIDS Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean.

“Today, St. Kitts and Nevis joins a growing list of Caribbean nations that have overturned these colonial-era laws that deny people’s human rights and hold back the response to the HIV pandemic. Everyone benefits from decriminalisation.”

Laws that punish consensual same sex relations, in addition to contravening the human rights of LGBT people, are a significant obstacle to improving health outcomes, including in the HIV response, said UNAIDS.

Such laws simply sustain stigma and discrimination against LGBT people and are barriers to LGBT people seeking and receiving healthcare for fear of being punished or detained.

Decriminalisation saves and changes lives, the agency noted in a press release.

 

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