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The state of global LGBTI rights in 2015

The state of global LGBTI rights in 2015

The most important report into the state of global LGBTI rights ever produced was released by the United Nations Human Rights Council this week.

We’ve put it into 77 simple facts to create a fingertip guide to what’s really happening. Each one speaks about the lives of hundreds, thousands and even millions of real people like us spread across every continent on earth.

The bad

Around the world LGBTI people are subject to ‘street’ violence and are targets of organized abuse by religious extremists, paramilitary groups and extreme nationalists.

Families and neighbors are also abusers – with youths, lesbians and trans women at particular risk. Some LGBTIs are murdered by the people they know best in so-called ‘honor’ killings.

Anti-gay and anti-trans violence is often particularly brutal even by the standards of other hate crime. The report highlights knife attacks, anal rape, genital mutilation, stoning and dismemberment.

Attackers frequently go unpunished. Police fail to act, ‘lose’ documents, dismiss attacks as ‘minor’ and mess up their investigations because of stereotyping and prejudice.

Victims don’t come forward because they fear blackmail, being exposed or reprisals.

Reporting and recording of anti-LGBT crime is so poor it masks the scale of the problem.

‘Grotesque homicides’ of LGBT people have been noted in every region of the world. The UN’s expert on ‘extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions’ has said attackers act with impunity and at times the ‘complicity of investigative authorities’.

There are patterns of killings that are not being stopped. These include the murders of transsexual women in Uruguay and of black lesbians in South Africa.

In an assault in Chile, a gay man was beaten and killed by neo-Nazis. They burned him with cigarettes and carved swastikas into his body.

Brazil is one of a few countries where the government bothers to publish an annual report on LGBTI violence. It recorded 310 homophobic and transphobic murders in 2012.

A lack of official figures means NGOs are a key source of information on LGBTI killings. The Trans Murder Monitoring project recorded data from 62 countries from 2008 to 2014. They found the equivalent of a killing every two days.

Terror groups may target LGBTIs. The report highlights the way Islamic State executes alleged homosexual men by pushing them off towers.

Attacks on LGBTIs are being turned into ‘entertainment’. Gay men have been kidnapped, beaten and humiliated, with film clips of their abuse shared on social media – particularly famous cases come from Russia.

So called ‘corrective rape’ to turn lesbians straight is also alluded to in the report. This is known to happen in South Africa and elsewhere.

‘In the Syrian Arab Republic, there have been reports of rape and torture of men assumed to be gay perpetrated by security agents and by non-State armed groups.’

Human rights defenders working for LGBTIs are subject to violence, threats and verbal denigration.

In the US, government figures shows hate crimes against people on the basis of sexual orientation are exceeded only by the number of racist hate crimes.

A quarter of European LGBT people have been attacked or threatened with violence in the past five years, an extensive study by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights in 2013 indicated.

Three quarters of LGBT people in the UK who have been the victim of a hate crime in the last three years didn’t report it to the police, according to a 2012 study by Stonewall.

The Vatican is making things worse, says the UN’s Committee on the Rights of the Child. The Holy See’s comments contribute to hate and violence against LGBT teenagers and kids raised by gay and lesbian couples.

In particular the Vatican is criticized for ‘the negative impact of hate speech on LGBT and intersex adults and children in Switzerland’.

Politicians use LGBTI people as pawns in their games. They stir up hatred and violence and harass individuals, particularly during elections. Belarus, the Gambia and Honduras are particularly highlighted.

State officials are torturing, degrading and cruelly treating LGBT prisoners.

The report highlights in particular the way 44 members of an LGBT organization in Zimbabwe were arrested, beaten and abused by police.

16 gay and trans people in immigration facilities in the US were allegedly put in solitary confinement, torture and ill-treated. The cruelty included sexual assault.

A woman was reportedly arrested in Bangladesh for being lesbian, and beaten and raped by police.

In Egypt, four people arrested on the faced sexual assault by other inmates while in detention because of their LGBTI status.

The UN’s expert on violence against women says lesbians are sometimes placed in cells with men if they refuse the sexual advances of prison staff.

Female prisoners whom guards think look ‘masculine’ are harassed, physically abused and put through ‘forced feminization’.

Transgender prisoners face particularly cruelty. ‘In Guatemala, a transgender woman was allegedly raped more than 80 times while in detention.’

Some countries conduct ‘anal probe’ tests to ‘prove’ men have had gay sex. These are meaningless and are a kind of torture.

Other pointless and dangerous ‘medical’ procedures used against LGBTI people include ‘conversion therapy’ or ‘gay cures’, sterilization, forced gender reassignment and unnecessary medical intervention on intersex children.

LGBTI discrimination is often worse when other factors are involved – like gender, race, age, religion, poverty or armed conflict.

People are deprived of basic rights such as access to employment, healthcare, education and housing. Poverty, homelessness and ‘food insecurity’ rates are thought to be higher among LGBTIs.

The World Bank says homophobia damages economic growth and development.

At least 76 countries criminalize gay sex – despite this being against international law. Some use life in prison, lashings and the death penalty.

Consensual homosexual acts can get you executed in Iran, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen, and in parts of Nigeria and Somalia. The death penalty is planned in Brunei.

Cross-dressing or ‘imitating the opposite sex’ is also criminalized.

The words used in these laws are vague. They use terms like ‘crimes against the order of nature’, ‘morality’, ‘debauchery’, ‘indecent acts’ or ‘grave scandal’.

The existence of these laws makes police corruption, family violence and mob justice worse.

‘Anti-propaganda’ laws have been introduced in several countries to stop people speaking in public about sexual orientation. They claim this is to protect children. UN officials particularly highlight Kyrgyzstan, Nigeria, the Republic of Moldova, Russia, Uganda and Ukraine.

Some LGBT people are denied health services. Others are put off from asking for them. Many don’t have health services that meet their needs.

In Caribbean countries with laws that criminalize homosexuality, almost one in four men who have sex with men is HIV positive. In Caribbean countries with no such laws, the figure is one in 15.

‘Conversion therapies’ to ‘cure’ homosexual attraction are ‘unethical, unscientific and ineffective and, in some instances, tantamount to torture’.

In Ecuador, the UN is concerned about ‘rehabilitation clinics’ where lesbians and transgender youths have been forcibly detained with the collusion of family members and subjected to torture, including sexual abuse.

Intersex children – kids born without typical sex characteristics – are being given unnecessary surgery to make them fully male or female. This can cause severe, long-term, irreversible, physical and psychological suffering. The UN’s Committee on the Rights of the Child and Committee Against Torture wants them banned.

Trans people find it difficult to access proper health care. Gender reassignment therapy, even when they can get it, is often too expensive for them.

Other people are forced into gender reassignment surgery when they don’t want it.

Gay, bi or gender non-conforming kids experience hate, harassment and sometimes violent abuse both in and outside school. This can mean they skip classes, drop out of school and can be left isolated, depressed and suicidal.

In Europe 80% of school children heard or saw negativity towards LGBT schoolmates, according to the EU. In Thailand, half of LGBT students had been bullied in the past month and 30% had been physically abused.

Most national laws do not protect employees from discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity at work. Some people are fired just because they are gay, bi or trans. Workplace benefits aren’t fairly applied and bullying at work is common.

LGBT people can face discrimination by public and private landlords. Individuals and couples are evicted or hounded out of their homes by neighbors.

LGBT teens and young adults are thrown out of home by parents and end up on the street. In the US, 40% of homeless kids identify as LGBTI.

LGBT culture, expression, protest and advocacy is censored and banned.

Police have raided LGBT group offices, arrested and harassed staff and volunteers, and confiscated materials. Some organizations have been targets of vandalism, burglary and arson. Police seldom bother to investigate promptly.

State agents and others, including far-right ‘skinhead’ groups, target LGBTI Prides and participants face violence and harassment. Prides and similar events are sometimes banned for ‘moral’ or ‘safety’ reasons, even though countries have a duty to provide freedom of assembly.

LGBT asylum seekers – some of them fleeing for their lives – are given ‘invasive physical screenings and examinations and denied entry on discriminatory grounds’.

Refugees and migrants are sometimes subjected to violence and discrimination in detention facilities. When resettled they may be housed in places that expose them to more danger.

When asylum seekers are wrongly sent back, they can face violence, discrimination, criminalization and the death penalty.

Countries should protect LGBT individuals in their families. But some lesbian, gay, bi, trans and intersex people have been ‘physically assaulted, raped, excluded from family homes, disinherited, prevented from going to school, sent to psychiatric institutions, forced to marry, forced to give up custody of their children, punished for activist work and subjected to attacks on personal reputation’.

Lesbians, bi women and trans people are particularly at risk within families because they are already discriminated against as women.

There is no requirement under international law to offer gay marriage. But the UN’s Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights wants countries to give same-sex couples legal recognition.

Children’s bodies in the UN particularly want kids in same-sex families to be legally recognized and protected.

The vast majority of trans people still can’t get their true gender legally recognized. This exposes them to ‘multiple rights challenges’.

Some countries break international human rights standards by the demands they put on trans people before they recognize their gender. This includes insisting they are not married, have been sterilized, have undergone gender reassignment surgery or other medical procedures.

The good

Some governments have worked to reduce violence and discrimination against LGBTIs. Since the UN’s last report on LGBTI human rights in 2011:

14 nation states have adopted or strengthened anti-discrimination and hate crime laws for LGBTs.

Two countries have introduced legal protections for intersex people.

Three nations have scrapped laws that made gay sex illegal.

12 governments have introduced marriage or civil unions for same-sex couples nationally.

10 countries have made it easier for trans people to get their gender identity legally recognized.

Police, judges, prison guards, doctors, nurses and teachers have been given LGBT training in ‘cozens’ of countries.

Many have launched programs against bullying in schools and created shelters for LGBTI youths.

Popular TV programs have integrated LGBT characters in a positive way.

Celebrities have come out as gay or trans, raising awareness.

Everywhere on earth, LGBTI human rights defenders are ‘more vocal and visible’. Some have managed to win their right to protest through the courts.

The answer

The UN says LGBTI issues are ‘one of the great, neglected human rights challenges of our time’.

Every layer of government and society, from the UN all the way down to local village leaders, are responsible for fixing the problem.

Here’s our summary of the 24 things the UN report says all countries should do now to meet their ‘obligations’ to LGBTI people.

You can find the full report here.