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Sexual orientation and gender identity: policymakers are taking decisions in the dark, says UN expert

GENEVA (12 June 2019) – Information about the lived realities of LGBT people around the world is, at best, incomplete and fragmented, but in most countries it is simply non-existent, said the UN Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

In a report due to be presented to the Human Rights Council on 24 June, Victor Madrigal-Borloz urged States to collect data in an effort to understand the root causes to and eliminate violence and discrimination against LGBT people.

"States must adequately address this scourge through public policy, access to justice, law reform or administrative actions," said Madrigal-Borloz. In most contexts policymakers are taking decisions in the dark, left only with personal preconceptions and prejudices.

"My findings show that barriers created by criminalization, pathologization, demonization and stigmatization hinder accurate estimates regarding the world population affected by violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity. Maintaining such a level of ignorance without seeking appropriate evidence is tantamount to criminal negligence." 

The expert said that data collection efforts are already underway in many parts of the world and have supported assessments of the situation of LGBT persons in various areas of life, including with regard to their safety, well-being, health, education and employment. However, many other areas still lack data and remain unexplored, for example, the concerns of ageing LGBT people and intersections with disability, racism and xenophobia.

"Further, in environments in which the State criminalizes certain forms of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression fully effective data collection is impossible: I have received multiple accounts of data being used for surveillance, harassment, entrapment, arrest and persecution by government officials in such contexts.

"I call on States to design and implement comprehensive data collection procedures to assess the type, prevalence, trends and patters of violence and discrimination against LGBT persons. When doing so, States should always respect the overriding ‘do no harm’ principle and follow a human rights-based approach to prevent the misuse of collected data," said the expert.

ENDS

Mr. Victor Madrigal-Borloz (Costa Rica) assumed the role of UN Independent Expert on Protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity for a three year period starting on 1 January 2018. He serves as the Secretary-General of the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT), a global network of over 150 rehabilitation centres with the vision of full enjoyment of the right to rehabilitation for all victims of torture and ill treatment. A member of the UN Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture from 2013 to 2016, Mr Madrigal-Borloz was Rapporteur on Reprisals and oversaw a draft policy on the torture and ill-treatment of LGBTI persons.

The Independent Experts are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

For inquiries and media requests, please contact: Ms Alice Ochsenbein (+41 22 917 98 32 / aochsenbein@ohchr.org) or Ms Catherine de Preux De Baets (+41 22 917 93 27 / cdepreuxdebaets@ohchr.org).

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts please contact Mr. Jeremy Laurence, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+41 22 917 9383 / jlaurence@ohchr.org)

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