UN Women statement for the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia on 17 May

Justice and protection for all


Today marks the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOTB). UN Women stands together with, and in support of, all members of the LGBTI community as we strive to ensure justice and protection for all. Human rights are universal and apply to everyone. No cultural, moral or religious belief justifies violation of anyone’s human rights. 

Diverse sexual orientations and gender identities have always existed. However, people with diverse gender identities and sexual orientations often experience homophobia, transphobia and biphobia, including in their access to justice and protection of their rights. These can result in a toxic spectrum of violence and discrimination at home and in the workplace, including being marginalized and alienated, restricted in access to basic services, verbally harassed, physically assaulted or raped, imprisoned or even killed. This can be further exacerbated where people with LGBTI identities are also from other communities that experience discrimination, such as people with disabilities or refugees.

LGBTI youth experience particularly severe forms of abuse, discrimination and marginalization and often struggle to access justice and protection as they may not have support from their parents or caretakers in bringing formal action. Access to justice through informal mechanisms, including at schools and educational institutions, can be limited by homophobic and transphobic attitudes of teachers and other authority figures. LGBTI youth may also be subject to so-called “corrective” rape and so-called “conversion therapies” and are at higher risk of sexual violence and intimate partner violence than heterosexual and/or cisgender people. Children born with natural variations of sexual or reproductive anatomy such that their bodies do not fit ‘typical’ definitions of male or female, also known as intersex traits, continue to be subject to traumatizing interventions such as non-consensual genital surgeries, often leading to irreversible sex assignment and sterilization. In 2013, the Special Rapporteur on Torture called upon states to outlaw ‘forced genital-normalising surgery’.

While UN Women welcomes the ongoing repeal of laws that criminalize homosexuality and discriminate against LGBTI people in some countries, there are more than 70 countries that still criminalize same-sex relations. The existence of discriminatory laws leads to the violation of human rights of LGBTI people, for example through laws that prevent the open expression of LGBTI identity, laws on public decency and morals, and laws against sodomy, as well as through forced sterilization and bans on public meetings. Sexual orientation and gender identity are protected from discrimination in only a few constitutions: Only ten specifically guarantee equality on the basis of sexual orientation, and five of these go further and include gender identity. Violence and discrimination against LGBTI people are also a result of the lack of adequate protective legislation, such as the absence of a legal recognition of gender identities, which is linked to the right to equal recognition before the law established in article 6 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and article 16 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

Law reform alone is insufficient. We need to change the social norms that lead to the exclusion of LGBTI people, that keep them living in the shadows, in shame, that rupture their ties with their families and communities. LGBTI people are vibrant, resilient, and create their own strong families and communities. UN Women stands for a world where LGBTI people can live full and open lives free from homophobia, transphobia, discrimination and violence. This is critical to achieve the 2030 Agenda’s vision of “a world of universal respect for human rights and human dignity, the rule of law, justice, equality and non-discrimination”.