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Copenhagen Human Rights Forum

Video Statement by United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet

17 August 2021

Your Royal Highness,
Excellencies,
Friends,

It is a pleasure to address this Forum, especially as we celebrate World Pride and tell hundreds of millions of lesbian, gay, bi, trans and intersex people around the world: #YouAreIncluded.

But to make our words count, what does it mean, in practice, to be truly included?

For starters, it means having trans people's gender recognized based on self-identification and human rights, in every country in the world.

In 2012, Argentina adopted a pioneering law in this direction. We have seen advances since then, but only in a small minority of countries.

Where laws recognising the gender of trans people do exist, they are often accompanied by deeply abusive and humiliating requirements, such as forced sterilization, medical certification, and divorce. That it is not by any means inclusive.

Additionally, we have recently seen an alarming rise in hateful discourse against trans people, particularly trans women, with legislative proposals seeking to roll back protections.

We must push back against the pushback. We must stand up for the human rights of the entire trans community.

Furthermore, being included means being safe.

It is encouraging to see more and more States taking steps against hate crimes based on sexual orientation and gender identity. In my own country, for example, a law was passed to address homophobic and transphobic crimes, sadly following the horrific killing and torture of a young man, Daniel Zamudio.

But the reality for millions of LGBTI people around the world is still a systematic pattern of violence and abuse -- even killings -- with many crimes not even being investigated. Just in June, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights recognised these serious challenges in a landmark case from Honduras. No region is immune. Right here in the European Union, for example, more than half of LGBT people have reported threats and harassment.

Violence and abuse take many forms. Lifelong pain and trauma can come from harmful medical procedures on intersex children and from unethical so-called "conversion therapy" targeted at lesbian, gay, bi and trans youth.

Moreover, young LGBTI people often face exclusion from their own families and communities. A rejection that can force them out of their homes and into a vicious circle of vulnerability, leading to yet more discrimination and violence.

We need urgent action to address abuses and hate crimes, as well as misinformation and prejudice, including through education and awareness campaigns.

Dear friends,

Being included means being free to be who you are without fear of persecution.

In my lifetime, over 70 countries have decriminalized consensual same-sex relations. Some of them just in the last few years.

While we welcome the progress made, 69 countries continue to have discriminatory laws today. These are laws used to arrest, harass, blackmail, and exclude on the basis of the perceived sexual orientation, and often, the gender identity of individuals. In five of these countries, these laws are so extreme as to include the death penalty.

We must accelerate efforts to repeal all laws that deny the basic humanity, dignity, and rights of people.

Inclusion also means being free to love.

While there have been significant strides, it remains today that only close to 30 countries currently recognise marriage between people of the same gender. The law should protect the relationships of all consenting partners, whatever their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Lastly, there is no inclusion without equal opportunities.

Education, decent work, access to health and housing are everyone's human rights. They are at the core of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Countless individuals and their families still face active discrimination and are left without support. Worldwide, children suffer horrific bullying, workers are fired, athletes are excluded from sport and people are denied housing based on their sexual orientation, gender identity and sex characteristics.

The COVID pandemic has exacerbated the social and economic exclusion of LGBTI people. For those who also face racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination, such as based on disability or migrant status, these challenges are multiplied many times over.

I welcome the increasing adoption of comprehensive national anti-discrimination laws. But despite all progress, only one third of countries ban discrimination based on sexual orientation; just one in 10 ban discrimination against trans people, and only one in 20 tackle discrimination against intersex people.

Dear friends,

I pay tribute to LGBTI human rights defenders who, often at great personal risk, work tirelessly so that many LGBTI people around the world can today say, "I am included".

I call on all of you to increase your support LGBTI human rights defenders, particularly those who receive the least funding and support.

The United Nations, my Office and I will continue to work with States, all sectors of society and all of you to build a world where all LGBTI people are free and equal.

That, to me, is what it means to be included.

Thank you.