Report on data


Social prejudice and criminalization lead to the marginalization and exclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans and gender non-conforming (LGBT) persons from essential services, including health, education, employment, housing and access to justice1.

In May 2018, a group of United Nations and international human rights experts expressed concern that LGBT people are being effectively left behind. They noted: “the development commitments of the international community, placed in the frame of the SDGs, demands that immediate attention be given to ensuring that the systematic exclusion of these groups, communities and populations be addressed: to make sure that no one is left behind, actions must be taken to tear down the systematic barriers that exclude LGBT persons from the benefits of the development agenda.” In this context, the experts underlined that such actions will rely among other, on the availability of data and on ensuring that disaggregated data collection and management are implemented in strict compliance with human rights standards.

Currently, however, there is a serious gap in the data available to capture the lived realities of LGBT people. Social prejudice and criminalization may result in non- or underreporting of violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and may seriously affect data collection efforts, which would help to provide evidence of the extent of the challenges faced by the LGBT population and of the policy and legislative needs in that regard. Similarly, the negation, by some States, of the existence of violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity or even of the presence of LGBT persons in their jurisdiction, will result in serious data gaps. The collection is crucial to create visibility and build an evidence base about human rights abuses and potential responses, dispel myths and stereotypes that feed stigma and discrimination, and aid policy-makers and advocates in the formulation of State measures regarding socio-economic inclusion, access to health and education, inclusion in the civic and political sphere, anti-discriminatory measures, prevention of abuses, and access to justice.

In recent years, some States, regional human rights bodies, and multilateral institutions such as the United Nations have initiated efforts to increase the level of knowledge about LGBT people and the discrimination and violence they face.  Additionally, governments are increasingly including aspects of sexual orientation and gender in routine data collection that takes place as part of governmental administrative functions.  This interest in collecting data has been driven by several factors, including increased concern by States for the human rights of LGBT people, a call for disaggregated data as part of the 2030 Agenda (UN General Assembly Resolution A/RES/70/1), the development a new LGBTI Inclusion Index, and the articulation of a human rights based approach to data by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Moreover, in 2018, the Global Commission on HIV and the Law supplemented its 2012 report to address new developments in this field and, among other matters, identified data collection and a security as an issue of concern. The Commission recommended that governments establish legal protections to safeguard privacy and confidentiality in social media, digital health, online healthcare records, communications with providers. The Commission further recommended that governments prohibit non-consensual use by law enforcement or private entities of digitally-collected or stored private information, especially data related to sexual and reproductive health.

These efforts carry benefits for, and risks to, the human rights of LGBT people.  Data is needed to understand the nature and extent of violence and discrimination against LGBT people,   dispel myths and stereotypes that feed stigma and discrimination, and aid in the formulation of state measures that incorporate relevant communities.  At the same time, any effort to collect data about sexual orientation and gender identity raises concerns about privacy, identity, self-determination, and security.   Information about an individual’s sexuality and gender continues to be highly stigmatizing. LGBT people remain vulnerable to the risks associated with the collection, maintenance and use of data.  In countries where same-sex sexual conduct is criminalized, where laws and policies are used to discriminate against or persecute LGBT persons, or where stigma and prejudice are rampant, the probability that victims will dare to report abuses is very low, owing to fear of prosecution, stigma, reprisals or victimization, unwillingness to be “outed”, or lack of trust. Even in progressive environments, the worry of regression may lead to non- or underreporting. In addition, there is currently no globally accepted definition, or international classification scheme, to facilitate internationally comparable data between subpopulations according to sexual orientation and gender identity. 

Preparation of the report

For the preparation of the report the Independent Expert sought views and encouraged input on gaps and good practices through different channels and from different stakeholders. He held a public consultation, open to Members States, UN agencies, programmes and funds, regional human rights mechanisms, National Human Rights Institutions, members of civil society organizations, academic institutions, corporate entities, and all other interested stakeholders, on 13 February 2019 in Geneva. It started with a general segment during which the Independent Expert introduced his work and his initial thoughts about the issue of data collection and management related to sexual orientation and gender identity, followed by interventions from participants who shared their views and provided inputs to the discussion. In partnership with the UNDP, the Independent expert co-organised a meeting of experts on 14 February 2019 in Geneva, with the aim of creating a cross-disciplinary discussion about key human rights safeguards that must be taken into consideration when collecting and managing data, aiming at identifying a human rights-based approach to data collection in the context of violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. In order to ensure accessibility to stakeholders based outside Geneva, the mandate further held online consultations in English, French and Spanish in different time zones on 27, 28 February, 5 and 6 March 2019. On 15 February 2019 he issued a call for written submission, for which he received around 90 submissions from United Nations Member States, civil society organisations, national human rights institutions, Ombudspersons, academics, United Nations agencies, funds and programmes.

Submissions received


1. Report of the IE SOGI to the Human Rights Council (A/HRC/38/43), 2018.


Independent Expert on sexual orientation and gender identity
c/o Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
United Nations at Geneva
8-14 avenue de la Paix
CH-1211 Geneva 10

Fax: (+41) 22 917 90 06
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