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International Youth Day12 August 2019 Scourge of homelessness adds to hardships faced by LGBT youth

09 August 2019

GENEVA (9 August 2019) – On the occasion of International Youth Day, the UN’s Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, Victor Madrigal-Borloz, and the Special Rapporteur on the right to housing, Leilani Farha, call on States to urgently adopt measures to address discriminatory practices against LGBT youth with respect to housing. They issue the following statement:

“As a result of religious and cultural intolerance that may include sexual and other forms of violence, lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and gender-diverse (LGBT) youth around the world face socio-economic exclusion, including from within their own homes and communities, and family disapproval and punishment can force them to leave home, which renders them more vulnerable to yet more violence and discrimination, a factor that is compounded with their age and economic dependence and reliance on family and community networks. This explains why LGBT youth are overrepresented in populations experiencing homelessness and why, once homeless, they experience additional discriminations.

Homelessness can further result as a consequence of other forms of exclusion from fundamental human rights. At school many LGBT youth suffer bullying, which results in drop-out rates that are higher than the average and has severe long-term consequences to their life project. LGBT youth are less likely to have the education levels and skills to find employment and reach economic security, which on the other hand affects their opportunity to find adequate housing.

The impact of such a grave situation of exclusion cannot be underestimated, with one recent study finding that almost two-thirds of LGBT youth experiencing homelessness had grappled with mental health issues, and studies suggest they are more likely to report depression, bipolar disorder and suicidal ideation and attempts. They are also less likely to have access to healthcare, and are extremely vulnerable to alcohol and drug abuse.

Under international human rights law and in keeping with the Sustainable Development Goals, States have an immediate obligation to implement the right to housing and effectively address homelessness. States must take immediate steps to address, as a matter of priority, the underlying structural causes of homelessness towards its elimination by 2030. Within that context, the measures adopted by national and local governments must prevent LGBT youth from becoming homeless, ensure that housing policies and programmes be inclusive of LGBT persons and address the needs of LGBT youth.”

International Youth Day is observed on 12 August. A full version of the statement can be read here.


Mr. Victor Madrigal-Borloz 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.

The present statement gives a glimpse of his forthcoming report addressed to the General Assembly, in which he examines in detail  how discriminatory laws and sociocultural norms continue to marginalize and exclude lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and gender-diverse persons, including young persons, from education, health care, housing, employment and occupation, and other sectors. In addition, the Independent Expert looks at the inclusion and access to these rights through the lens of intersectionality and analyses compounded discrimination, which leads to exclusion and marginalization that impacts the young in unique ways that must be made visible. He then discusses the ways in which an inclusive society and effective State measures enable people to enjoy protection from violence and discrimination and highlights the unique role of leaders in different fields, all of which will allow the cycle of exclusion to be broken and have a positive impact on the misconceptions, fears and prejudices that fuel violence and discrimination.


Ms Leilani Farha is the UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, and on the right to non-discrimination in this context. 

Her reports on homelessness discuss in detail the violations faced by those experiencing homelessness. Her report on human rights based housing strategies, examines in detail the necessary requirements for states to implement effective strategies that urgently address homelessness.

The Special Rapporteurs 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.
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