Press Release

IACHR Publishes Report on Progress and Challenges toward Recognition of the Rights of LGBTI Persons in the Americas

May 22, 2019

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Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) released today a report on Recognition of the Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex (LGBTI) Persons in the Americas (visit the microsite here). The report examines the important progress made in States around the region to ensure that LGBTI persons can lead fulfilling lives with full autonomy and respect for their own will and free from all forms of violence, from a holistic perspective that takes human rights as interdependent and universal and focuses on the integral safety of LGBTI persons.

The IACHR notes the persistence around the region of physical, psychological and sexual violence based on a person’s sexual orientation, identity and/or gender expression or on body diversity. However, the Commission acknowledges the major efforts made by countries in the Americas to protect LGBTI persons. “The aim of the report was to collect best practices in data collection and in efforts to enforce the rights to democratic and political participation, education, health, personal safety, access to justice and economic well-being. The report is not comprehensive, but it does seek to lay the foundations for other countries to move forward with an agenda of equality, inclusion and non-discrimination, supporting the individual capacities of LGBTI persons to ensure they enjoy integral protection,” said Commissioner Flávia Piovesan, IACHR Rapporteur on the Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Persons.

A total of 14 Member States, 48 civil society organizations and 8 national human rights institutions submitted their responses to the questionnaire that was the basis of this report. Information was gathered systematically by consulting experts and analyzing official data obtained from State sources, as well as reports, resolutions and statements issued by intergovernmental organizations, research conducted by national and international NGOs, and media reports.

The authors of this report found that protection and enforcement of the rights of LGBTI persons can only be attained through the effective participation of those people in institutions in charge of making decisions concerning countries’ public policy and legislation, to ensure that their needs and expectations are reflected in such policy and legislation. Many States have created specific representation forums to discuss the rights of LGBTI persons. The IACHR notes the rise in the number of LGBTI candidates for elected office in several countries around the region, which suggests a trend toward including LGBTI voices among decision-makers at various levels within those States.

Further, considering that prejudice and discrimination against LGBTI persons is structural in societies around the Americas, the Inter-American Commission acknowledges that inclusive education with a gender focus and a sexually diverse perspective plays a crucial role in promoting the rights of LGBTI persons and in preventing violence. Several States in the region have made progress through legislation and public policies that promote teaching based on equality and non-discrimination in schools, with a gender perspective. The IACHR calls on States to keep implementing mechanisms to fight social and cultural prejudice, and to encourage the development of an atmosphere of respect and acceptance for diverse sexual orientations and gender identities.

In this report, the IACHR includes data on measures taken by some States in the region to ensure that LGBTI persons—particularly trans and intersex persons—have comprehensive access to healthcare. However, the Commission was also informed that States’ understanding of LGBTI persons’ right to health focuses mostly or even solely on the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). The IACHR warns in its report that it is not “being an LGBTI person” that makes someone more likely to get HIV. Rather, the report notes, it is the discrimination and vulnerability that LGBTI persons face that make them more likely to get the virus. The Commission therefore urges States to design and adopt comprehensive measures to protect the rights of LGBTI persons to access healthcare services without prejudice, discrimination or violence.

Concerning personal safety, the IACHR found that high rates of violence against LGBTI persons persist in the Americas. The Commission notes, however, that several States have taken action to address several aspects of that violence, by enacting legislation that specifically criminalizes violence that is based on prejudice against LGBTI persons or legislation that contemplates aggravating circumstances for crimes committed against LGBTI persons. The IACHR stresses that it is important for States in the region to work toward implementing the Commission’s recommendations to address violence against LGBTI persons.

Despite major hurdles and challenges in access to justice for LGBTI persons, some States have taken concrete measures to promote effective judicial responses to violations of the human rights of LGBTI persons. Such measures include the creation of specialist investigative units and the provision of training for officials of the justice system. The Commission notes those efforts and stresses that raising awareness of the issue among officials of the justice system is a step toward ensuring effective access to justice for LGBTI persons. That access also requires the availability of nimble, effective resources, the creation and implementation of specific protocols for adequate action, and the conduct of serious, impartial, non-prejudiced investigations into cases involving violence and discrimination.

In its report, the IACHR addresses action taken by States to ensure that LGBTI persons have access to and control over economic resources. The Commission highlights that the discrimination faced by LGBTI persons in societies around the region pushes those people into a cycle of exclusion that tends to lead to poverty, for lack of access to basic services, opportunities and welfare payments. The IACHR observes that ensuring recognition of rights including access to education and healthcare gives LGBTI persons access to and control of economic resources, which enables them to break out of that cycle of poverty and exclusion.

Despite such progress, the report also stresses threats of rollbacks concerning the rights of LGBTI persons in the region. Such challenges include persistent violence against such people; persistent criminalization of non-normative sexual orientations, sexual identities and gender expressions in several States; the adoption of laws and other State measures that violate the principle of equality and non-discrimination; misinformation campaigns and initiatives that promote stigma and stereotypes about LGBTI persons, such as those that purport to counter “gender ideology”; and the rise of groups and movements that oppose recognition of the rights of LGBTI persons. The Commission urges States to keep working to ensure the adoption of legislation and public policies that protect the human rights of LGBTI persons.

“In this report, the Commission makes specific recommendations for States in the region, with the aim of promoting meaningful dialogue and ensuring further progress to grant comprehensive protection to people with diverse sexual orientations, actual or perceived gender identities and bodies in the Americas, by consolidating efforts to protect, recognize and promote the rights of LGBTI persons,” said the IACHR’s President, Commissioner Esmeralda Arosemena de Troitiño. “The IACHR stresses its commitment to cooperating with States in the region in the search for solutions to problems that have been identified as hampering progress toward recognition of the rights of LGBTI persons in the Americas,” said the Commission’s Executive Secretary Paulo Abrão.

Finally, the IACHR would like to thank inter-American civil society organizations active in the defense of human rights, OAS Member States and Observers, and international and regional organizations for all the information they have contributed to this report. The Commission particularly appreciates the support of Wellspring Philanthropic Fund, The Trust for the Americas and the Arcus Foundation.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 126/19