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Levels of violence against trans people “offend the human conscience”, says UN rights expert


25 October 2018

NEW YORK (25 October 2018) –  Trans and gender-diverse people around the world are overwhelmingly and disproportionately the victims of violence to levels that offend the human conscience, the UN Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity said today.  

“Trans and gender-diverse people suffer violence and discrimination from their early lives, and are caught in a spiral of exclusion and marginalisation: often bullied at school, rejected by their family, pushed out onto the streets, and denied access to legal employment,” said Victor Madrigal-Borloz in a report to the UN General Assembly. 

“Breaking these cycles of violence will require the awareness of the community of nations, and their resolve to fulfil their duties to protect the lives of trans and gender-diverse persons. These measures cannot be postponed”, the Independent Expert said. 

Madrigal-Borloz highlighted that the vast majority of trans and gender-diverse persons in the world do not have access to gender recognition by the State and live in a legal vacuum where stigma and prejudice create a climate that tacitly permits, encourages and rewards with impunity acts of violence and discrimination against them.

“When States recognize the gender identity of trans persons, they often impose abusive requirements, such as medical certification, surgery, treatment, sterilization or divorce”, said the Independent Expert. “In such cases, medical professionals are given the power to decide on the life and the fate of trans persons. These are arbitrary processes, without any ground on evidence or rights-based approaches”, he added. 

“States have the power to end the ordeal faced by trans and gender-diverse people”, Madrigal-Borloz emphasized. The report highlights measures that have an immediate and direct impact on the levels of violence and discrimination affecting trans and gender-diverse persons and on their sociocultural inclusion. “These measures range from depathologization of trans identities, to legal recognition of gender identity and include the immediate imperative of removing abusive requirements for such recognition”, Madrigal-Borloz said.  

Madrigal-Borloz noted that each step forward can only be judged positively if it takes point of departure in a fundamental principle that he learned many years ago from trans activists and organisations: “nothing about us without us.” 


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 years 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. Prior to this he led technical work on numerous cases, reports and testimonies as Head of Litigation and Head of the Registry at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and has also worked at the Danish Institute for Human Rights (Copenhagen, Denmark) and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (San José, Costa Rica). 

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 more information and media requests please contact: Catherine de Preux De Baets (+41 79 8747790 or +41 22 917 9327 as of 29 October 2018 - [email protected]).