UNDP and IPU promote action among parliamentarians to advance LGBTI+ rights and inclusion

November 2, 2022

Linda RM Bauman, a feminist and human rights activist from Namibia speaks during the side event’s panel discussion.

Photo: Sebastian Tynkkynen

Affirming and protecting the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI+) people is urgently needed across the African continent and around the world – and parliaments have an essential role to play – stressed participants at a side event at the recent Inter Parliamentary Union (IPU) General Assembly in Kigali, Rwanda. 

While there has been progress to further LGBTI+ rights and inclusion, there has also been ongoing marginalization, and, in a growing number of countries, an increase in regressive policies, hate speech and legislation.

Attended by over 70 Members of Parliament from around the world, the side event was organized by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Global Inclusive Processes and Institutions Team with support from the #WeBelongAfrica programme, and the IPU 12+ Group, on 11 October 2022. It sought to promote more coordinated and focused efforts on LGBTI+ inclusion and human rights protections in challenging contexts, and in particular promote the important role that parliaments have in this agenda.

The event served as a platform to introduce the newly revised tool, Advancing the Human Rights and Inclusion of LGBTI People: A Handbook for Parliamentarians, which was launched earlier this year by UNDP and Parliamentarians for Global Action, to a global caucus of Members of Parliament.

“In every country and development context, LGBTI+ people continue to face social exclusion and challenges to their human rights,” said Tele’a Andrews, Programme Analyst with the Global Inclusive Processes and Institutions Team at UNDP. “We need a countervailing global effort to meet these challenges.” 

“The needed reforms to laws, policies and social norms do not come about by chance – they occur when we have strong parliamentary leaders who are committed to ending stigma and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity,” said Amitrajit Saha, Team Leader with the HIV, Health and Development Team for Africa at UNDP. “UNDP is committed to supporting parliamentarians to reach these goals.” 

The event convened a panel of African Members of Parliament and civil society organizations for a dialogue to explore opportunities for collaboration and to bring specific attention to the challenges and opportunities in Africa. The discussions focused on highlighting the reality of exclusion and human rights violations LGBTI+ people continue to experience and concrete steps that parliamentarians can take to rise to this challenge. 

“As parliamentarians we need to represent, legislate and have oversight of Government on behalf of all members of our communities, including LGBTI+ people,” said Hon. Lorraine Nxumalo, Member of Parliament in Eswatini. “In challenging parts of Africa we need greater resources to build alliances with a coalition of willing partners to reject the wave of stigma and discrimination and violence levied at our LGBTI+ communities – we cannot do that alone.”

Participants made a strong call for countries to consider more focused and coordinated interventions for LGBTI+ reform. 

Sharing perspectives from the Pacific region, H.E. Louisa Wall, Ambassador for Gender Equality (Pacific)/Tuia Tāngata for New Zealand, noted: “There remains a desperate need to advance the human rights of LGBTIQ+ peoples in the Pacific and across the world who continue to experience systematic, targeted violence and abuse. The colonial and religious legacy needs to be universally rejected. We need MP champions to be vigilant in their efforts to uphold LGBTIQ+ citizenship rights.” 

H.E. Louisa Wall also pointed to the Handbook as a resource for parliamentarians to leverage in their efforts to advance LGBTI+ inclusion. “The UNDP and PGA Handbook is an excellent tool for parliamentarians to help support them as they embrace this momentum for change to ensure that we truly do not leave anyone behind,” she said.