The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic is an unprecedented global challenge that has exacerbated inequalities prevalent in all regions of the world. The United Nations General Assembly has acknowledged that “the poorest and most vulnerable are the hardest hit by the pandemic” and the UN Secretary General has noted that it is “highlighting deep economic and social inequalities and inadequate health and social protection systems that require urgent attention as part of the public health response”.
In his report, the Independent Expert discusses the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans and gender-diverse (LGBT) persons, communities and/or populations. The Independent Expert analyses the impact of the pandemic on social exclusion and violence and the interaction with institutional drivers of stigma and discrimination. He also analyses measures adopted in the context of the pandemic aimed at persecuting LGBT persons or with indirect or unintended discriminatory effects and identifies good practice.
The present report is part of an integral process for COVID-19 response and recovery free from violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The “ASPIRE” Guidelines, released in June 2020, provide a specific set of recommendations to that end. The present report should be read in conjunction with these Guidelines.
In his report, the Independent Expert concludes that COVID-19 has a disproportionate impact on LGBT persons and that, with few exceptions, the response to the pandemic reproduces and exacerbates the patterns of social exclusion and violence already identified by the Independent Expert.
He calls on States and other stakeholders to adopt urgent measures to ensure that pandemic responses are free from violence and discrimination. Measures adopted by States must comply with principles of equality and non-discrimination, participation, empowerment and accountability. Further, they must be effectively necessary to combat the public health crisis posed by the pandemic, and be reasonable and proportionate to their legitimate purpose. The Independent Expert notes that emergency powers granted to address the pandemic must not be abused.
The Independent Expert highlights three fundamental processes for effective State measures:
Acknowledging and embracing diversity in sexual orientation and gender identity
Adopting decided measures to deconstruct stigma
Adopting evidence-based approaches when designing State response.
The Independent Expert started a process of dialogue about the impact of COVID-19 on LGBT persons in March, soon after World Health Organization declared it as a pandemic.
He opened a wide -ranging dialogue process through an open letter issued on 27 March 2020, convening three virtual Town Hall meetings in the period from 30 April to 1 May 2020 and participating in over three dozen virtual consultations and meetings bringing together activists, human rights defenders, civil society leaders, government officials and scholars. In total, over 1,000 individuals from more than 100 countries contributed anecdotal evidence and perspectives on the implications of the pandemic on LGBT persons.
In addition, the Independent Expert reviewed over 80 reports, documents and essays published in the period 1 March – 31 May 2020 on the specific impact of COVID-19 on LGBT persons, as well as reports of human rights violations submitted to the mandate under the communication procedure, and the globality of the work carried out by the United Nations Special Procedures.
Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity