Report on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the human rights of LGBT persons

28 July 2020
Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity
To the GA at its 75th session, October 2020


The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic is an unprecedented global challenge that has exacerbated inequalities prevalent in all regions of the world. The United Nations General Assembly has acknowledged that “the poorest and most vulnerable are the hardest hit by the pandemic”, and the UN Secretary General has noted that it is “highlighting deep economic and social inequalities and inadequate health and social protection systems that require urgent attention as part of the public health response”.

In his report, the Independent Expert discusses the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on LGBT persons, communities and/or populations. The Independent Expert analyses the impact of the pandemic on social exclusion and violence, and the interaction with institutional drivers of stigma and discrimination. He also looks at measures adopted in the context of the pandemic aimed at persecuting LGBT persons or with indirect or unintended discriminatory effects. Good practices are also identified in the report.

The present report is part of an integral process for COVID-19 response and recovery free from violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The “ASPIRE” guidelines, released in June 2020, provide a specific set of recommendations to that end. The present report should be read in conjunction with these guidelines.

View the ASPIRE guidelines and other key outputs related to COVID-19 and LGBT persons.

Watch the presentation of the report at the General Assembly

Key findings

In this report, the Independent Expert concludes that COVID-19 has a disproportionate impact on LGBT persons and that, with few exceptions, the response to the pandemic reproduces and exacerbates the patterns of social exclusion and violence already identified by the Independent Expert.

He calls on States and other stakeholders to adopt urgent measures to ensure that pandemic responses are free from violence and discrimination. Measures adopted by States must comply with principles of equality and non-discrimination, participation, empowerment and accountability. Further, they must be effective in combating the public health crisis posed by the pandemic, and be reasonable and proportionate to their purpose. The Independent Expert notes that emergency powers granted to address the pandemic must not be abused.

The Independent Expert identifies three fundamental processes for effective State measures:

  • Acknowledging and embracing diversity in sexual orientation and gender identity
  • Adopting decided measures to deconstruct stigma
  • Adopting evidence-based approaches when designing State response


The Independent Expert started a process of dialogue about the impact of COVID-19 on LGBT persons in March 2020, soon after World Health Organization declared it as a pandemic. He opened a wide-ranging dialogue through a letter issued on 27 March 2020, and convened three virtual Town Hall meetings from 30 April to 1 May 2020. He participated in over three dozen virtual consultations bringing together activists, human rights defenders, civil society leaders, government officials and scholars. In total, over 1,000 individuals from more than 100 countries contributed anecdotal evidence and perspectives on the implications of the pandemic on LGBT persons.

In addition, the Independent Expert reviewed over 80 reports, documents and essays published between 1 March and 31 May 2020 on the impact of COVID-19 on LGBT persons. He also assessed reports of human rights violations submitted to the mandate under the communication procedure, and the globality of the work carried out by the United Nations Special Procedures1.

Several Special Procedures mandate holders focused their 2020 thematic reports to the United Nations Human Rights Council or the General Assembly on the impact of COVID-19 on human rights. They developed a joint questionnaire with common questions and mandate-specific questions.

Read the joint questionnaire (English | FrançaisEspañol)

Inputs received

In addition to the numerous inputs to common questions, the Independent Expert received 55 mandate-specific inputs.

View inputs and responses covering issues of common interest

Find inputs on the impact of COVID-19 on LGBT persons listed below.  

Number (and percentage) of inputs received by region

Regions covered by inputs received

Number (and percent) of inputs received by stakeholder type

Inputs received by stakeholders

Number of inputs received by stakeholder type and by region

Inputs received by region and stakeholders

States, regional and local governments

UN Agencies and other International Organizations

National Human Rights Institutions

NGOs and Civil Society Organizations


1. The collected work of UN Special Procedures is available at the following link