Header image for news printout

Promote tolerance and diversity, speak out against hate and bigotry Statement by human rights experts on the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia - 17 May 2019

Geneva / Washington, D.C .- On the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, Biphobia and other forms of intolerance based on sexual orientation, gender  identity and/or expression, and sexual characteristics (IDAHOTB), two United Nations human rights experts* and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights urge States and civil society actors to take all necessary measures to prevent and counteract all forms of advocacy that constitutes incitement to violence, hostility and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, gender diverse and intersex (LGBTI) persons and to guarantee their right to a life free from all forms of violence.

Incitement against LGBTI persons is built on prejudice on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender identity and/or expression and bodily diversity. Hateful discourse against LGBTI persons frequently depicts them as sick, deviant, prone to crime, immoral, socially unstable, and a threat for children. They increase prejudice and intolerance and lead to discrimination and violence. 

Messages of hatred against LGBTI persons are most visible during public debates, demonstrations against equal rights, protests against pride parades and rallies. Offensive messages calling for the suppression of non-normative sexual orientations and gender identities and a limitation of the human rights of LGBTI people are also disseminated through the media, the internet, and even video games and music. As a result, progress towards the eradication of violence and discrimination against LGBTI persons has been halted in various countries around the world, and a number of discriminatory legal and policy initiatives have been put forward. 

In some States the law prohibits discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity whether in public spaces, in educational settings or in the presence of children. Further, some anti-rights movements not only oppose the teaching of the principles of equality and non-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientations and non-normative identities, but they also incite to hatred and appeal to legal measures to censor any type of discussion on these issues. 

The combination of social prejudice and, in some cases, the use of criminal laws aimed at negating the existence of non-normative sexual orientations and gender identities and expression has the effect of marginalizing lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and gender diverse persons, striping them from their human rights, as well as excluding them from essential services, such as health care, education, employment, and housing amongst others. 

To tackle hate speech and to fulfil their obligation to create an enabling space for the right to freedom of expression for all individuals, States should enact legislation that prohibits advocacy of hatred that constitutes incitement to violence or discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression and sex characteristics.  Additionally, States must counteract hate speech made by public officials and politicians. This can be done through not only administrative measures but also by encouraging public figures to speak out against hate and bigotry. 

Further, States should actively work towards policies that guarantee both the rights to equality and non-discrimination and freedom of expression, as well as the right to live a life free of violence through the promotion of tolerance, diversity and pluralistic views, which are the center of pluralistic and democratic societies.

To that end, civil space must be protected and a safe environment created, where LGBTI persons can express their opinions without fear of reprisals or violence. States have the duty to tackle disinformation and prejudice connected to LGBTI persons and their identities. 

States should promote positive and realistic views of LGBTI identities and their life experiences. This can be done through public campaigns designed for this objective and by encouraging private actors and stakeholders, such as media outlets and companies, not only to refrain from reinforcing stereotypical and prejudicial views about LGBTI persons, but to engage in journalism that tells stories which provide a realistic view of who LGBTI people are. 

Finally, different human rights bodies have recommended the inclusion of informational materials in educational curricula to combat stereotypes that exacerbate discrimination against LGBTI persons, as well as raising awareness of violence suffered by these persons by applying a human rights-based education at an early age is one of the ways in which States can intervene and tackle stigma against LGBTI people. Both formal and non-formal education can be used as a tool to fostering a culture of respect for differences, acting against prejudices and hate speeches that are based on the premise of inferiority of historically discriminated groups, such as LGBTI persons and promoting respect and dignity for all.

We call on States, civil society actors, and other stakeholders to promote tolerance with regard to diverse sexual orientations and gender identities and to speak out against bigotry and hatred.

(*) The experts:
Mr. Victor Madrigal-Borloz, Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, Mr. David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression.