ERC Statement on COVID-19 and the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons

Published

The undersigned members of the Equal Rights Coalition (ERC) call on all governments to limit the repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic on people identified based on real or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or sex characteristics.

The current pandemic of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) affects us across all regions and poses an unprecedented threat to public health, socio-economic conditions and the livelihoods of many people. Although the virus may seem to strike indiscriminately, its spread and consequences along with measures taken to combat the pandemic affect specific groups differently depending on existing inequalities and exclusion mechanisms in societies and power structures, leaving the most marginalized even more vulnerable. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) persons are amongst the most marginalized and excluded because of historic and ongoing stigma, discrimination, criminalization and violence against them, and they are and will continue to be among those most at risk during this crisis.

LGBTI persons often experience discrimination and stigmatisation in health care systems. As a result, they might decide to delay seeking medical care and live in a state of compromised health. Discrimination can affect access to medication, hormonal treatment and gender affirming care as well as care for other pre-existing chronic illnesses, potentially making LGBTI persons particularly at risk of enduring serious health complications or facing death because of COVID-19. Many LGBTI persons lack family or community support and face high levels of violence and poverty, and increased rates of homelessness and unemployment. The confinement measures can also lead to a rise of domestic violence motivated by sexual orientation and gender identity.

Government measures to combat the pandemic must be lawful, and should be proportionate, necessary, of a temporary nature and take into consideration the disproportionate impact on specific populations or marginalized groups. These measures should be in line with the 1984 Siracusa Principles on the conditions that enable governments to restrict human rights during a public health emergency. This crisis should not be a justification to impose new constraints on or to scapegoat LGBTI persons.

The undersigned members of the ERC call on all governments to ensure that their measures to combat the COVID-19 pandemic consider the specific impact on LGBTI persons. The members also call on all governments to ensure that all policies related to the pandemic, including access to health care, information, housing, and financial and economic support, take into account LGBTI persons’ needs in a proactive and non-discriminatory way, in line with the statement by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. The members further call on donor governments to ensure humanitarian relief efforts and funds include a response to the specific needs of marginalized communities, such as LGBTI persons, by involving community-based organisations in their response and implementation.

Co-signatories:

Albania, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Cape Verde, Chile, Costa Rica, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, Montenegro, the Netherlands, New Zealand, North Macedonia, Norway, Portugal, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Uruguay