Making the existence of bisexual persons visible is a key building block in the eradication of violence and discrimination against them
Geneva/Washington, D.C. (21 September 2018) - Anticipating the International Celebrate Bisexuality Day on September 23, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and United Nations human rights experts* call for an end to human rights violations against bisexual people. Bisexuality is the capacity for emotional, romantic and/or physical attraction to more than one sex or gender. Bisexual people represent an important part of the LGBTI community, however, they are still not included in discourses on sexual orientation, data collection, health research and also within their own communities. In the “LGBTI” acronym, the “B” is often eclipsed, leading to the invisibility of bisexual persons and negation of the specifics of their experience.
The existence of bisexual individuals is constantly wrongly questioned, and sometimes even denied outright. Often, bisexuality is qualified as invalid, immoral or irrelevant. Biphobia, one of the root causes of the violence, discrimination, poverty and worse mental and physical health experienced by bisexual people, is fueled by this lack of visibility that can even be present in communities of diverse sexual orientation or gender identity.
The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey: 2010 Findings on Victimization by Sexual Orientation, the ILGA Bisexual Secretariat, Movement Advancement Project, BiNet USA, Bisexual Resource Center, among others, have done research that reveals that bisexual persons suffer shocking rates of intimate partner violence and other forms of domestic violence, and sexual assault. Bisexual women are particularly at risk of violence due to misogyny, patriarchy and gender inequalities. Due to biphobia and erasure, bisexual people suffer significantly high rates of depression and anxiety.
Bisexuals also face great disparities in access to health due to the lack of medical information and adequate sexual and reproductive preventive care.
The IACHR and the UN human rights experts note the difficulties, or reluctance, to document violence against bisexual persons. Some States negate their existence altogether, which lead to acts of violence and discrimination being condoned and perpetrated with impunity. The absence of reliable data gathered on biphobic crimes or the tendency to statistically categorize violence and discrimination against bisexual people as homophobic crimes makes biphobia invisible, for statistical purposes, as well as violence by prejudice against bisexual people.
The IACHR and UN human rights experts urge States to collect disaggregated data on bisexual persons, in strict compliance with human rights standards, as an effective measure to prevent, punish, and eradicate violence and discrimination against these persons. These data should then inform States’ actions and enable the formulation of policies that include bisexual individuals’ needs into their agenda and provide for their social inclusion. Similarly, reports and initiatives undertaken by LGBTI organizations should address biphobia and highlight the distinct experience of bisexual persons separately to homophobia and broader LGBTI experience to make their lived reality visible and document their specific needs and concerns. Finally, the IACHR and UN experts recall that States have a duty to create systems for recording and reporting hate crimes based on sexual orientation, including biphobia, and to diligently investigate and prosecute killings and other acts of violence and discrimination committed against bisexual persons. This includes opening lines of investigation that consider whether a crime was committed because of the victim’s sexual orientation, punishing the perpetrators, and providing reparation to the victims.
A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the
IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote the respect for and defense of human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.
(*) United Nations human rights experts:
Victor Madrigal-Borloz, Independent Expert on sexual orientation and gender identity, Nils Melzer, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Dainius Pῡras, Special Rapporteur on the right to health, Dubravka Šimonović, Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, and the Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice