Raising the rainbow flag: UN Country teams put ‘pride’ into policy and practice
22 June 2023
Being yourself should never be a crime.”- UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres
For thousands of people around the world, “Pride month” in June, is a time of unabashed celebration and affirmation of gender identity and sexual orientation across the spectrum. It is also a reckoning with the many ways lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, queer and intersex (LGBTQI+) people face discrimination and denial of basic human rights because of who they are.
From legal protection to healthcare access to social inclusion and more, LGBQI+ people encounter numerous challenges that threaten their dignity and equality. When combined with aspects of race, income, age, ability/disability, LGBTQI+ people are often more vulnerable yet are often excluded from social policies and planning.
UN teams on the ground are calling for change, advocating against stigma and violence against LGBTQI+ people and helping provide both essential services and safe spaces for these communities to thrive:
Cambodia: Advocating for legal recognition
Cambodia does not have legislation explicitly criminalizing sexual orientation or gender identity, yet a stark lack of data is making it difficult to analyze challenges faced by LGBTQI+ communities and to adequately plan and implement measures to safeguard their rights.
After visiting provinces and engaging with the UN Country team, communities and civil society representatives, the UN independent expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, Victor Madrigal-Borloz urged authorities to legally recognize LGBT families.
He called for legal recognition of gender identity and same sex marriage as well as comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation to enable LGBT Cambodians to live free and fair lives. Read more about his visit and his statement here.
Nepal: Studying violence and gathering evidence for action
In 2015, Nepal’s Constitution recognized and protected the rights of LGBTIQ+ people for the first time. Over the years, strong grassroots movements have led to widespread awareness, yet discrimination and stigma is still prevalent. In a first of its kind report published this month, UN Women in Nepal along with private sector and civil society partners, studied the magnitude and breadth of violence against LGBTQI+ people in Nepal, gathering powerful empirical evidence to advocate and push for urgent action. The study showed that 81% of respondents had experienced at least one form of violence in their lifetime.
Stemming from the study, read moving testimonies from five members of Nepal’s LGBTQI+ community to their younger selves, about their struggles and striving for hope as they eventual become leaders in the community and human rights activists paving the way for future generations.
Thailand: Working at the intersections with LGBTQI+ migrants
Assigned male at birth, Ice* knew from a very young age that she was different from other children and didn’t fit with the conventional gender norms she saw around her. Leaving her small village in Lao PDR behind, she made a difficult journey to Thailand where she took up low paid jobs in the restaurant business in Chonburi province and eventually joined the entertainment industry which helped her pay off debts and make enough income to send home remittances. Yet she continued to face discrimination in work and life.
Sisters Foundation is a unique non-government organization in Thailand, established by LGBTQI+ people and providing healthcare services and labour rights awareness to community members like Ice. Since 2020, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) has been working with Sisters Foundation to provide education sessions on labour rights and professional skills training to LGBTIQ+ migrants, to enhance their livelihoods and employment opportunities and promote safe migration. Read the story of how, with IOM’s support, LGBTQI+ migrants are finding second chances, expanding their skills and gaining the confidence to advocate for their rights.
El Salvador: Enabling healthcare access
The Diké organization, which was founded in 2007 to help prevent HIV transmission among transgender women and reduce discrimination in the healthcare system, is a safe haven for many LGBTQI+ people across El-Salvador.
Named after the goddess of justice, the organization provides a number of essential services out its community center- from sexual health care, psychological care, human rights education, advocacy activities and safe shelter for those who need it, including migrants and displaced persons.
Through the joint UN Spotlight Initiative, UNDP is supporting organizations like Diké by helping increase access to medicines and equipment, building confidence and community for LGBTQI+ populations, particularly transwomen and bringing education and sensitization for those in the justice and security sectors. Read more about the impact this work is having here.