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States must include LGBT community in COVID-19 response: The how and why from a UN expert

14 May 2020

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International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia – 17 May 2020

GENEVA (14 May 2020) – Governments worldwide must ensure COVID-19 emergency measures do not worsen inequalities or structural barriers faced by people with diverse sexual orientations and gender identities, or lead to increased violence and discrimination against them, a UN expert said today. He was speaking ahead of the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOBIT) on 17 May 2020.

“Lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans-and gender-diverse people, who are disproportionately represented in the ranks of the poor, the homeless, and those without healthcare, will be deeply impacted by the pandemic and, unless we take urgent action, this impact will be felt over generations,” said the Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, Víctor Madrigal-Borloz, in a key Joint Statement published today.

“This historical statement, signed by 96 United Nations and international human rights experts, forcefully recognises that the struggle against the COVID-19 pandemic is not waged on a level playing field,” he said. Criminalisation laws, still existing in 70 countries, created higher risk of police abuse and arbitrary arrest and detention during curfews, and hindered meaningful data collection.

“For example, even when gay men and trans women comprise a significant proportion of those living with HIV-induced compromised immune systems at higher risk of developing severe symptoms of COVID-19, criminalisation, stigma and discrimination will likely make it impossible to fully document and analyse the impact of the pandemic,” the Independent Expert said.

He noted the pandemic is being used in some countries as an excuse for persecution. “Some States have enacted measures which intentionally target LGBT persons and communities under the guise of public health, including proposing legislation to deny trans- and gender-diverse persons of their legal recognition.”

Madrigal-Borloz said that States should ensure that pandemic-related measures are not discriminatory and are designed with the participation of LGBT communities, and ensure accountability for arbitrariness and abuse.


Mr. Víctor 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-year period starting on 1 January 2018. Victor Madrigal-Borloz is a senior visiting researcher at the Harvard Law School’s Human Rights Program. He served as the Secretary-General of the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT. A member of the UN Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture, 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 Ms. Taro Tanaka (+41 22 928 9725 / [email protected]) or write to [email protected]
For media enquiries regarding other UN independent experts, please contact Xabier Celaya (+ 41 22 917 9445 / [email protected])

Follow news related to the UN’s independent human rights experts on Twitter @UN_SPExperts.

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