UN Women statement for the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Interphobia and Transphobia, 2020

Breaking the silence

Date: Sunday, May 17, 2020

Around the world, the COVID-19 pandemic is exacerbating existing inequalities, including those based on sexual orientation, gender identity and sex characteristics, with often-devastating impacts for LGBTIQ+ people, who are already among the most marginalized and excluded. The theme of this International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Interphobia and Transphobia – break the silence – calls our attention to these inequalities across the world and asks us to speak out together against the discrimination, restrictions on basic freedoms, and hate that LGBTQI+ people face in the current context and beyond.

This is especially important now, as in some contexts governments’ emergency response measures are being used to justify rolling back essential rights and protections for LGBTIQ+ people, and most egregiously, to scapegoat them as the source of the illness. Breaking the silence is key to ending the stigma, phobia and discrimination that LGBTIQ+ people experience in many societies. It is essential to ensure that LGBTIQ+ people can live full and open lives within strong families and communities where their rights are fully protected and access to services guaranteed.

LGBTIQ+ people routinely face barriers to access to healthcare and related support services, especially in places where their identities are criminalized or targeted, and are often refused essential treatment or experience abuse. This can cause people to avoid seeking critical health services for fear of arrest or violence. The pandemic context is amplifying these challenges, heightening vulnerabilities to COVID-19 on top of existing health concerns. De-prioritization of those health needs, including gender transition related medical care, is rapidly leading to grave consequences for both mental and physical health.

The social and economic impacts of the COVID-19 crisis are already hitting LGBTIQ+ people hard, including by inhibiting their access to livelihoods and housing, especially where social safety nets are weak. Quarantining measures are resulting in LGBTIQ+ people, particularly youth, being put in danger in hostile homes or abusive relationships. Transgender people are more than ever exposed to discrimination, police harassment and lack access to courts in countries where the pandemic is putting additional pressures on security and judiciary institutions. LGBTIQ+ migrants, asylum seekers, racial and ethnic minorities are especially vulnerable.

Today – and every day – UN Women urgently calls on communities and governments around the world to stand up for LGBTIQ+ rights. To address this pandemic while upholding the rights to health of all, UN Women calls for more support and shelters for survivors of violence, for LGBTIQ+ people to have equal access to healthcare services and to equally benefit from state stimulus packages and social protection, including food and rent support. Authorities should comprehensively collect data to ensure LGBTIQ+ specific risks and needs are captured and addressed in policies and budgets. Legal protections for LGBTIQ+ people must be preserved and strengthened to ensure that this crisis does not become an excuse to roll back hard-won gains.

We at UN Women will continue to stand up for LGBTIQ+ rights, in recognition, respect and celebration of the diversity and resilience of our communities worldwide.