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New UN Report Presents Pervasive Abuse and Recommendations to Protect LGBTI People

The United Nations human rights chief has said in a new report that lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people are victims of “pervasive violent abuse, harassment and discrimination” in all regions of the world and cites hundreds of hate-related killings.

While some progress has been made since the first study four years ago spotlighting discrimination and violence against people based on their sexual orientation and gender identity, the overall picture remains one of pervasive, violent abuse, harassment and discrimination affecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBT/I) persons in all regions, according to a new United Nations report issued today.

The high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Raad al-Hussein, said actions by some countries to reduce violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity since the last report in 2011 have been overshadowed by continuing human rights violations against these groups, too often perpetrated with impunity.

“Violence motivated by homophobia and transphobia is often particularly brutal, and in some instances characterized by levels of cruelty exceeding that of other hate crimes,” according to the report by the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR) (A/HRC/29/23) to be presented later this month to the UN Human Rights Council, which requested it.

The report notes that such violent acts include deep knife cuts, anal rape and genital mutilation, as well as stoning and dismemberment. “These constitute serious human rights violations, often perpetrated with impunity, indicating that current arrangements to protect the human rights of LGBT and intersex persons are inadequate,” it says.

It goes on to say that “there is as yet no dedicated human rights mechanism at the international level that has a systematic and comprehensive approach to the human rights situation of LGBT and intersex persons.”

The report to the Geneva-based Human Rights Council circulated on Monday cites the murder of transsexual women in Uruguay and of black lesbian women in South Africa, and the killing of a gay man in Chile by neo-Nazis who carved swastikas into his body. In February 2015, it said, photos appeared to show several men, allegedly accused of homosexual acts, being pushed off a building to their deaths in Syria by militants of the so-called Islamic State extremist group.

Brazil reported 310 documented murders in 2012 “in which homophobia or transphobia was a motive”, it said. The trans murder monitoring project, which collects reports of homicides of transgender people, lists 1,612 murders in 62 countries between 2008 and 2014. And the inter-American commission on human rights reported 594 hate-related killings of LGBT people in the 25 countries of the Organisation of American States between January 2013 and March 2014, it said.

The report also gives many examples of non-lethal violence including the arrest, beating and ill-treatment by police in Zimbabwe of 44 members of an LGBT organisation, a woman reportedly arrested in Bangladesh for being a lesbian who was allegedly raped by police while in custody, and four people arrested in Egypt for their alleged sexual orientation who were reportedly sexually assaulted by other inmates while in detention.

In the United States, the report said recent government figures show that bias-motivated crimes based on sexual orientation rank second only to racist incidents among hate crimes.

According to the report, at least 76 countries retain laws used to criminalise and harass people on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity or expression, including laws criminalising consensual same-sex relationships among adults.

In Iran, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Yemen and parts of Nigeria and Somalia, consensual homosexual conduct may be punished by death, “a grave violation of human rights,” the report said.

The rights chief expressed concern about laws enacted or proposed in the past two years to restrict public discussion of sexual orientation under the guise of protecting minors from information on not-traditional sexual relations. He pointed to Kyrgyzstan, Nigeria, Moldova, Russia, Uganda and Ukraine.

The report contains 20 recommendations directed at the national governments. Among them:

1. Repeal laws used to punish individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity, including laws that criminalize consensual same-sex relationships cross-dressing, and restrict freedom of expression, association and assembly;

2. Prohibit discrimination and incitement to hatred and violence against LGBT persons, and enact hate crime laws that punish those who target individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity;

3. Legally recognize same-sex relationships;

4. Ensure access to legal identity documents that reflect an individual's self-identified gender, without imposing abusive pre-conditions; and

5. End abusive therapies and treatments to which LGBT people are often subjected -- including so-called "conversion” therapy, forced sterilization of transgender persons and certain medical procedures on intersex children.

The recommendations, the report says, describe measures to protect individuals from the kinds of human rights violations documented in the report and draw from good practices observed in the course of compiling the report and recommendations of United Nations human rights mechanisms.

The report, the second such official study of its kind since 2011, notes that despite “some progress” during the past four years, “the overall picture remains one of continuing, pervasive, violent abuse, harassment and discrimination affecting LGBT and intersex persons in all regions.”

On killings, the report said: “Data are patchy but, wherever available, suggest alarmingly high rates of homicidal violence” and noted that “terrorist groups may target LGBT persons for punishment, including killings.”

As an example, the reported cited that “in February 2015, photos appeared to show several men, allegedly accused of homosexual acts, being pushed off a tower to their deaths by militants of the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).”

While noting important recent advances in the protection LGBT people, the report presents evidence of “continuing, pervasive, violent abuse, harassment and discrimination affecting LGBT and intersex persons in all regions.”

Comment by Melanie Nathan, ED of African HRC: Today the news pertaining to LGBTI issues was dominated by the Vanity Fair cover of Caitlyn Jenner, the transgender celebrity and her trajectory from Bruce to Caitlyn. I find it absolutely unconscionable that today our United States media, and to a smaller extent International media, has focused its news on the glamorous white wealth privilege of the transition of Caitlyn Jenner, while ignoring this incredibly important report about the reality and truth that faces all LGBTI people around the globe, including in the United States itself. While the news about Ms. Jenner is important, it is a sad day when white wealth and celebrity privilege overshadows the real story. The real story is this report. Its is so typical of Americans to isolate and forget that there is another world out there.

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