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States should act to end violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation & gender identity

Interactive Dialogue with Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity

We congratulate Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Victor Madrigal-Borloz on his first report. Every country in the world should be able to get behind the idea that violence and discrimination against anyone, including on the grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity (SOGI), are unacceptable. We appreciate the Independent Expert’s work to highlight unacceptable forms of violence and abuse that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people face, including killings, rape, arbitrary arrests, and forced medical interventions.

Most states would agree that these abuses are unacceptable, but they must do much more to end such violence and discrimination. The Independent Expert correctly identifies a deadly combination of discriminatory legislation, stigma, and negation of the reality of anti-LGBT violence that contributes to the perpetuation of such violence. By revoking laws that criminalize same-sex conduct and gender non-conformity, addressing stigma through effective education campaigns, and collecting data on anti-LGBT violence, states can literally save lives.

The past year has been difficult for activists seeking to end SOGI-based violence and discrimination. We witnessed mass detentions and torture of gay and bisexual men in a purge in Chechnya; mass arrests and forced anal exams in Egypt; the closure of LGBT-friendly health services in Tanzania; police raids on LGBT spaces in Indonesia; and systematic efforts to roll back transgender equality in the United States.

But as the Independent Expert reminds us, there have also been progress in state measures to curb discrimination and violence. Legislation in Pakistan and a court ruling in Botswana have affirmed transgender people’s right to change their gender markers on official documents. As Human Rights Watch has long argued, legal gender recognition is critical to end violence and discrimination triggered by bearing identity documents that do not match one’s appearance.

A Kenyan court has ruled that forced anal exams violate constitutional rights to dignity and freedom from torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, and Tunisia has accepted a Universal Periodic Review recommendation to end such exams. Trinidad and Tobago is the most recent country to strike down laws against same-sex intimacy through the courts.

We urge all states to look to these examples for inspiration, and to ensure that their laws and policies protect the basic rights of all people, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.


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