A group of human rights leaders including Dunja Mijatovic Commissioner for Human Rights at the Council of Europe, United Nations experts and special rapporteurs, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, have called on nations to listen to the concerns of LGBT persons and to do more to protect their rights.
The statement, released in advance of the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia (IDAHOBIT) asked States to take into account the impact of COVID-19 on the LGBT community when designing, implementing and evaluating measures to combat the pandemic.
“The failure to respect and fulfil the right to life obligations for LGBT individuals is near-ubiquitous in many parts of the world, a shortcoming that also affects data gathering, resource allocation and support to civil society. As a result, the fight against the pandemic is not waged on a level playing field,” the statement says.
It adds that in all latitudes, LGBT people are disproportionately represented in the ranks of the poor, the homeless, and those without healthcare. This puts them more at risk during the pandemic.
The statement adds:
“In many countries, every time a trans woman leaves her home she does so with the awareness that there is a distinct possibility that before the end of the night she will be tortured or killed, lesbian women have worse health outcomes when compared to others, and bisexual persons are condemned to live their lives concealing their orientation. The discrimination suffered by gay men and transgender women results in them representing a significant proportion of those living with HIV whose immune systems may be compromised, and who may be at higher risk of developing severe symptoms of COVID-19. However, criminalization, stigma and discrimination against these persons will play against them, making it impossible to fully document and understand how they are being impacted by the pandemic.”
The signatories said that States and other stakeholders must acknowledge that LGBT persons represent a meaningful cross-section of society and must be considered when addressing the impact of the pandemic.
During these times, LGBT individuals are exposed to the risk of police violence, arbitrary arrest, domestic violence from unaccepting family members, and lack of income due to being forced to work in the informal economy. They noted that many are now unable to get HIV medication or receive gender-affirming care or hormonal therapy due to the reallocation of healthcare.
They recognised the work of civil society organisations to fill in the gaps that States leave. These include organising and distributing food, water, and hygiene products, providing communication, solidarity and mental health care, and to provide members of the community with important and relevant information related to the pandemic.
In Albania, a number of LGBT individuals who are forced to work in the informal economy have found themselves struggling due to lockdown measures. Local NGOs including Aleanca have stepped in to provide support and food parcels to a number of members of the community.