Defenders of LGBT Rights

10 November 2007

Individuals or groups defending the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) people are often exposed to risk and vilification in their societies. LGBT rights defenders have faced the full range of abuse including:
  • denial of legal registration
  • imprisonment for "crimes against nature"
  • death squad killings
  • threats
  • attacks
  • repudiation by others in their community.

In many countries, official complaints presented by LGBT rights defenders are met with indifference and therefore impunity. In the seventy or so countries in which homosexuality is a criminal offence, defending LGBT rights can be seen as promoting criminality. Defenders can therefore face prosecution for their identity as well as their activity if they carry out their role.

LGBT rights defenders have also struggled for space to place these issues on the international human rights agenda. In some cases, their participation in international human rights forums has been deliberately blocked by hostile governments. At such forums, attempts by defenders to secure recognition of the patterns of abuse faced by LGBT people worldwide have repeatedly and consistently been excluded from formal human rights platforms and resolutions, with some governments arguing that these issues are "no fit subject" for consideration by international human rights bodies.

Nevertheless, the work of LGBT rights defenders in countries around the globe has begun to be recognized and reflected in the analysis of the UN's expert monitoring bodies, including the UN Special Representative on Human Rights Defenders, and those experts dealing with such issues as violence against women, the right to health, the prevention of torture and extrajudicial executions.

Defenders have brought to public attention the many ways in which people whose sexual orientation or gender identity differs from the perceived norm are prevented from living their lives and exercising rights and freedoms others take for granted. They have highlighted the specific patterns of abuse faced by transgender people and the double discrimination faced by lesbians, on grounds of both gender and sexual orientation, which often renders their experiences invisible.

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