Header image for news printout

Violence against LGBTI

LGBTI Core Group event at the UNGA73
Violence against LGBTI Individuals: Extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions
Statement by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet,
New York, 25 September 2018

Distinguished Ministers,
Excellencies,
Colleagues and friends,

I am very pleased to be here, and I thank the Core Group for organizing today’s event, especially our co-chairs, Argentina and the Netherlands.

It is fundamental to the cause of human rights that we promote equality, and the protection of all people from discrimination and violence.

It should be obvious that there are many different ways to be a human being. We need to respect and embrace these differences -- not criminalise them, not attack people, not deprive them of equal rights or the protection of the law, just because they are seen as “different”.

The struggle for the rights of LGBTI people is a core part of the human rights struggle.

And yet in many parts of the world, members of the LGBTI community continue to be the targets of brutal attacks, many of which are left unpunished.

It is essential that we defend and protect the LGBTI community, from every kind of violence and discrimination.

There should be nothing “controversial” about stopping people being murdered, or executed by agents of the State, simply because of who they are or whom they love. Tackling extreme violence does not require new norms.

Seventy years ago, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaimed that everyone, without distinction “has the right to life, liberty and security of the person.” When there is a pattern of hate-motivated violence – one, for example, based on gender, sexual orientation or gender identity – and the State does not act to prevent, and effectively address, those attacks, it is failing to live up to that obligation.

Excellencies,

In a number of countries, there have been patterns of hate-motivated killings against lesbian, gay, bi and trans people by private actors and, sometimes, by local security forces or non-State armed groups. In some countries, trans women, in particular, have been at risk of such killings.

Worse still, when the victims of attacks seek protection, they are frequently subjected to intimidation and abuse, including from police and justice officials. And most countries do not track homophobic and transphobic crimes.

The result is impunity. Too many victims go without recognition, remedy or justice. Too many perpetrators are free to strike again, undeterred by the prospect of rule of law.

Intersex people, too, face violence. There have been reports of the killing of young intersex babies. Some intersex children are subjected to harmful practices in medical settings. And very few States are taking action to protect intersex children from such harm.

LGBTI people are entitled to equal protection, and the same rights as everyone else.

I am encouraged by the fact that an unprecedented number of countries are now committed to taking action to prevent and address killings and violence against LGBTI people.

But we need for all States to step up their efforts to address these crimes; to prevent extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; and to protect all people, without discrimination.

Excellencies,

Tragically, the issue is not only the inadequate response by the State to violence against LGBTI people.

In seven countries, national or provincial laws provide for the execution of people convicted of acts related to homosexuality. I want to make clear that use of the death penalty in these circumstances is in complete violation of fundamental rights.

More than 70 countries criminalize consensual same sex relationships, and also criminalize transgender people based on their appearance. These laws subject LGBT people to long prison sentences, and in some cases physical punishment. They also implicitly encourage prejudice, hatred and violence.

But laws can change.

In my country, Chile, following the brutal torture and murder of a young gay man in a Santiago park, six years ago, a very powerful and moving public discussion took place about the need to challenge hatred and violence towards the LGBT community. A bill, blocked for years in Parliament, was adopted – making it easier to punish homophobic and transphobic crimes.

In India, we have just seen a landmark decision by the Supreme Court, decriminalising same-sex relationships.

This important discussion is taking place all over the world. Not only in Europe and North America – it is moving forward in Africa, in Asia, in the Americas, in the Caribbean and in the Pacific.

I welcome these vital changes. We need to see more countries taking steps to bring their laws and practices in line with the fundamental equality of all their people.

But we need more.

We need to change minds.

At the core of killings and violence against LGBTI community is prejudice and hate. We will only prevent these crimes if we are brave enough to address these factors, across society.

I am proud of the work my Office is doing to open people’s hearts and minds through its global Free & Equal campaign. This is one of the biggest UN public information initiatives ever undertaken, and it has reached hundreds of millions of people around the world.

We also need education, education, education. Respect for diversity – including in relation to LGBTI people – should be reflected in school curricula and reinforced through effective public information campaigns.

We need the business community, religious leaders, celebrities and the media to play a positive role.

Excellencies,

I believe that profound, positive change is possible. I have seen it in my own lifetime. It can be done.

With your help, and the help of many others, we can prevent killings, violence, humiliation and fear in our LGBTI community.

We can conquer hate.

Thank you