Forward by Victor Madrigal-Borloz, United Nations Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
Victor Madrigal-Borloz – United Nations Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
On 29 October 2020, I presented my report on the impact of COVID-19 on LGBT persons to the 75th General Assembly of the United Nations:
I want to, once again, acknowledge the work of activists, human rights defenders and civil society organisations, which already operated under duress before the pandemic, and have continued to pursue their mission and accomplish impactful work. Over the last five decades, LGBT organisations have created and collaborated on a complex system of early warning, data gathering, emergency relief, advocacy and follow-up, and have built a sense of community. That system is of profound value to the lives of LGBT persons, as it has demonstrated its unique capacity to effectively and efficiently respond to needs at the most intimate and local levels. That system has also been instrumental in the unique global alliances created to address the HIV/AIDS pandemic; to ensure recognition of the rights of LGBT persons as human rights; and to initiate social transformation of unprecedented depth and width by promoting the inclusion of LGBT persons in education, health, employment, housing and all other realms of society.
I would like to commend APCOM on their dedicated work, and in particular their significant contributions to the knowledge base on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic during 2020. With dozens of publications and actions of outreach actions, APCOM is firmly and brilliantly placed in the system that I described in my address to the UN General Assembly.
The COVID-19 pandemic reproduces and increases the patterns of discrimination, social exclusion and violence against LGBT persons. The existence of criminalisation laws, for example, further exposed LGBT persons to police abuse and arbitrary arrest or detention, and also prevented them from fully accessing aid programs and services put in place by States. Social isolation recommendations have often put LGBT children, youths and elders in adverse settings, as some were forced to endure prolonged exposure to unaccepting family members, aggravating rates of domestic violence, and physical and emotional abuse. All of this resulted in deteriorating mental health, such as anxiety, depression and suicidal ideation. Furthermore, in many jurisdictions, LGBT persons overwhelmingly rely on informal economies which were heavily affected by COVID-19 restrictions. This increased economic instability, as well as housing and food insecurity.
In light of these findings, I created a framework to support the crafting of efficient and effective solutions to these problems, in a way that addresses the realities of populations who are at a disadvantage when facing the pandemic: the ASPIRE Guidelines. They are a set of recommendations to ensure that measures designed to respond to and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic are free from violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. These guidelines urge States to:
- Acknowledge that LGBT persons are everywhere, and that they are hard-hit by the pandemic;
- Support the work of LGBT civil society and human rights defenders, – and continue to learn from their significant achievements;
- Protect LGBT persons from violence and discrimination in the pandemic context, and actively prosecute perpetrators;
The guidelines also call on States to ensure that:
- Indirect discrimination is assessed as a real and significant risk, one which exacerbates stigmatisation against LGBT persons;
- Representation of LGBT persons is prioritised in the process of design, implementation and evaluation of COVID-19 measures, – and that the voices of LGBT persons are reflected in policies;
- Evidence concerning the impact of COVID-19 on LGBT persons is gathered while following standards of good practices.
The courage and dignity of our lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and gender diverse siblings, and the determined work of those who, like APCOM, work with resolve and results to promote and defend their rights, continue to inspire us and give us hope every day. The challenges, which already were monumental and were intensified by the pandemic, may appear insurmountable. But even in the most challenging of contexts, it becomes evident how strong and resourceful we can be together. The resolve and results of APCOM is a clear example of the virtues that lie at the base of this resilience.
United Nations Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (IE SOGI)
 Aspire Guidelines: Guidelines on COVID-19 response free from violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. At: https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/SexualOrientation/IESOGIASPIREGuidelinesReport_v5_20200622.pdf
 Victor Madrigal-Borloz was appointed as UN Independent Expert on sexual orientation and gender identity in late 2017. His initial three-year term started on 1 January 2018. He is the second Independent Expert to serve in this capacity.