United Nations: a response to Covid-19 and the rights of the LGBT+ population

United Nations LGBT - guidelines for Covid-19

It is time to stop this stigma against LGBT+ population amidst this Coronavirus pandemic. 

Too many incidents among the LGBT+ population worldwide accused to be one of the causes of this Covid-19 pandemic brought the United Nations to release a note titled “COVID-19 AND THE HUMAN RIGHTS OF LGBTI PEOPLE”.

There is a clear and urgent request from the High Commission of the UN to stop the stigmatisation of LGBT+ people continuously blamed for disasters, both natural and human, and especially in this historical and delicate time of our lives where we are fighting against a dangerous virus. 

The Office of High Commissioner makes clear example to this situation: “LGBTI people have previously been blamed for disasters, both manmade and natural, and there are scattered reports of this happening in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. In some countries, reports suggest an increase in homophobic and transphobic rhetoric. There are also reports of police using COVID-19 directives to attack and target LGBTI organizations. In at least one country, the State of Emergency has been used to propose a decree that would prevent transgender people from legally changing their gender in identity documents.”

The actual state sees LGBT+ population as one of the most vulnerable groups of people, too often having already to deal with HIV/AIDS issues, or with poverty; and this is the case of loads of homeless people who happen to also be queer and cannot afford – given the way the have to live – social distancing and proper hygienic conditions able to avoid the spread of Coronavirus. 

UN’s clear guidances

LGBT+ people are risking more than anybody else in this critical moment, as too many queer people are facing issues with health services such as access to HIV/AIDS cures or hormonal treatment for transgender people. 

“Access to Health Services: LGBTI people regularly experience stigma and discrimination while seeking health services, leading to disparities in access, quality and availability of healthcare. Laws that criminalize same sex relations or that target trans persons due to their gender identity or expression, exacerbate negative health outcomes for LGBTI people, as they may not access healthcare services for fear of arrest or violence. […] De-prioritization of required health services: Given overloaded health systems, treatment of LGBTI people may be interrupted or deprioritized, including HIV treatment and testing, hormonal treatment and gender affirming treatments for trans people. Decisions about scaling back services should be medically-based and data-driven, and should not reflect bias against LGBTI people.”

We must not forget that this forced isolation might also represent a risky condition for all those queer persons who have to live in non-friendly environments, such as with homophobic parents. This is a moment where they are facing so many domestic violences, and each Country must act to prevent these phenomena and help those in need.

“Domestic violence and abuse: Due to stay-at-home restrictions, many LGBTI youth are confined in hostile environments with unsupportive family members or co-habitants. This can increase their exposure to violence, as well as their anxiety and depression. “

Which solutions and actions to take?

We could not agree more than we already do in sharing UN’s ideas and actions to be taken in these specific times.

The note released on 17th April 2020 gives a clear bullet-point list of what each Country and Stakeholders can, and must do, to prevent a worsening of the LGBT+ populations worldwide amid this Coronavirus pandemic:

“1) Specific efforts should be made to ensure that LGBTI people are not subjected to discrimination or fear retribution for seeking healthcare. Health services that are particularly relevant to LGBTI people should not be deprioritised on a discriminatory basis. 

2) Measures to address the socio-economic impacts of the pandemic should consider the particular vulnerabilities of the LGBTI people, including older persons and the homeless, and ensure that LGBTI people are fully covered. 

3) Political leaders and other influential figures should speak out against stigmatization and hate speech directed at the LGBTI people in the context of the pandemic. 

4) Shelters, support services and other measures to address gender-based violence during the COVID-19 pandemic should take steps to include the LGBTI population.

5) States should not use states of emergency or other emergency measures to roll back existing rights and guarantees that apply to LGBTI people. 

6) Measures restricting movement should provide protection for trans and gender non-conforming persons. Law enforcement officials should be instructed and trained not to discriminate against this population.”

How many governments will really stick to these guidelines and recommendations, we truly do not know, but luckily enough we know of many Humanitarian and LGBT+ associations that are already working to help those in need, and if we want to help, there is a way we can do so.  Check the latest activities here.

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