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UN expert says COVID has increased exclusion and violence against LGBT+ people

UN expert says COVID has increased exclusion and violence against LGBT+ people

  • Some countries have used the pandemic as ‘fuel for hatred’ to ‘scapegoat’ LGBT+ citizens.
Victor Madrigal-Borloz.

The coronavirus pandemic has harmed LGBT+ lives around the world, leading to more social exclusion and violence.

That’s according to Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the UN independent expert on sexual orientation and gender identity.

His new report, which he presented to the UN General Assembly, warns the negative impacts have been felt by LGBT+ people around the world ‘with few exceptions’.

The report lists a series of problem areas, ranging from domestic violence to access to HIV treatment.

Madrigal-Borloz says: ‘COVID-19 has a disproportionate impact on LGBT persons. With few exceptions, the response to the pandemic reproduces and exacerbates the patterns of social exclusion and violence [against LGBT+ people].

‘Urgent measures must be adopted by States and other stakeholders to ensure that pandemic responses are free from violence and discrimination.’

‘Increase in domestic violence’

As others have also confirmed, the order to ‘stay at home’ has taken a particular toll on LGBT+ people whose families may not accept them.

The UN expert says this has led to ‘isolation, increased stress’ and more violence, particularly harming older and younger LGBT+ people.

The report adds: ‘A recent survey in Iran found that more than 50% of respondents had experienced increased violence.

‘Submissions concerning Europe reported an increase in domestic violence in a majority of surveyed countries.’

Meanwhile the report also highlights the toll the virus has taken on LGBT+ mental and emotional well-being. It cites one case where a helpline reported a four-fold increase in the number of callers considering suicide.

Throughout, the independent expert emphasises how the pandemic has exasperated inequalities and problems that already exist. He says:

‘LGBT persons are disproportionately represented in the ranks of the poor, people experiencing homelessness, and those without healthcare, meaning that they may be particularly affected as a result of the pandemic.’

Meanwhile Madrigal-Borloz cites a global survey that found 23% of people living with HIV had lost access to care, as a result of social isolation precautions. Many LGBT+ people with HIV have struggled to get their essential medication.

‘Fuel for hatred’

Moreover he also highlights particular cases where authorities have persecuted LGBT+ people.

In Uganda, police arrested 23 innocent LGBT+ people in a homeless shelter and held 19 in prison for 50 days. They eventually had to release them without charge.

Meanwhile Madrigal-Borloz says governments have used the pandemic to ‘institute regressive legislation’. He gives the example of Hungary which plans to stop trans people from legally changing their gender.

Moreover, he warns the pandemic has been used as ‘fuel for hatred’ and to ‘scapegoat’ our community.

He says: ‘LGBT people are being singled out, blamed, abused, incarcerated and stigmatized.’

Protection, not discrimination

The expert says governments must not use coronavirus to target or prosecute LGBT+ people. Instead it should engage and empower LGBT+ organizations.

He also highlights some positive examples:

‘Good practice was identified in Peru and Spain, which published guidance on the different economic support programs available to LGBT persons, including shelter, health and emotional support.’

Madrigal-Borloz says countries should tackle stigma and ‘protect LGBT persons from violence and discrimination’. And he calls on countries to gather proper data around the community, to see the impact coronavirus has had.

It is not the first UN intervention on behalf of LGBT+ people during the crisis.

In April, Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, also highlighted abuses against the community. She ordered countries not to use the pandemic to undermine LGBT+ rights.