The United Nations (UN) continues to work side-by-side with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, and queer (LGBTIQ+) people and our partners to drive forward equality and human rights for all. These are vital efforts given that LGTBIQ+ people are often denied their human rights -- unable to access legal protection, healthcare, or other basic services, for instance. In 69 countries, consensual same-sex relations continue to be criminalised. Moreover, many LGBTIQ+ people do not have bodily autonomy and some are forced to undergo medical treatment or needless surgery. That includes unscientific ‘conversion therapies’ that can cause physical and psychological trauma -- so much so that a UN report has noted that these practices could be tantamount to acts of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.
Indeed, millions of LGBTIQ+ people around the world continue to experience prejudice, discrimination, stigma, hostility, and violence on a daily basis. The COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated the social exclusion and violence experienced by LGBTIQ+ people and deepened inequalities. Yet tangible progress is being made on promoting equality and human rights of LGBTIQ+ people across the world -- from the decriminalization of same-sex relations to the enactment of laws prohibiting discrimination. Indeed, 56 of 175 countries and locations surveyed experienced increases in acceptance for LGBTIQ+ people since 1980. Unfortunately, this progress is neither sufficient nor universal. Even where rights-affirming legislation is in place, deeply ingrained social norms may not fully reflect this. We can and must do more.
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is working with 72 countries to support the inclusion and rights of LGBTIQ+ people through partnerships with governments and civil society to develop enabling laws and policies. For instance, UNDP and our partners supported Angola and Bhutan to decriminalize adult consensual same-sex relations. Or look to Thailand, where UNDP supported parliamentarians and civil society in developing legislation on anti-discrimination, legal gender recognition, and civil partnerships. Or to India, where UNDP is working with communities and state health departments to advance COVID-19 vaccination programmes and social protection schemes that aim to ensure the inclusion of LGBTIQ+ people. Since 2017, the Being LGBTIQ+ in the Caribbean, a programme funded by USAID and led by UNDP, has empowered over 1,800 human rights defenders -- helping the LGBTIQ+ community to access justice and exercise their rights.
This theme of this year’s International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOBIT), ‘Our Bodies, Our Lives, Our Rights’, is a reminder that everyone must have the right to make decisions about their bodies and their lives. Indeed, all of us must play a role in standing up and speaking out against hate, discrimination, and violence -- wherever and whenever it occurs. Within UNDP, we are leveraging resources such as the UN-GLOBE Recommendations for Inclusive Workplaces for Trans and Gender Non-conforming Staff to help ensure greater inclusion of all gender identities. UNDP, the entire UN family, and our many partners are committed to supporting countries and communities across the world to make inclusion, non-discrimination, and equal opportunities a reality for all. Our collective commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals and our efforts to reach those furthest behind first simply cannot be met until LGBTIQ+ people are treated as equals under the law -- and in their everyday lives.