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UN officials urge respect for sexual and gender diversity

17 May 2017 – Marking the international day against homophobia, senior United Nations officials today called for respect for sexual and gender diversity and urged the protection of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people from discrimination and harm.
“Today, I am deeply concerned by the excessive trivialization of insults, sexist and homophobic remarks in the media, in everyday life, on social networks, even from political leaders,” said UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Director-General Irina Bokova in her message for the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOT), commemorated annually on 17 May.
She recalled the situation of homosexuals under the Nazi regime, interned in "re-education" camps, and killed. The UN was created to prevent such crimes from happening again, she stressed, noting that UNESCO is committed to protecting the rights of homosexual and transgender people by drawing across its mandate to advance education, the sciences, culture, communication and information.
“These are powerful tools to fight the prejudice, verbal violence and stigmatization that foreshadow physical violence and that violate the equality and inherent dignity of all. This work for reason and tolerance begins on the benches of school,” she said.
Research by the International Labour Organization (ILO) has found that workplace policies, often designed from a hetero-normative perspective, may fall short of addressing the issues and concerns of LGBTI workers. For example, LGBTI workers may be excluded from leave and benefit entitlements, such as parental leave, because their families do not fit traditional norms.
“In keeping with the principles of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, no LGBTI worker should be left behind. Today let us stand in solidarity for the rights of LGBTI workers and their families,” said ILO Director-General Guy Ryder.
Gender identity and sexual orientation can have an impact on a migrant's journey, unfortunately often in a negative and even dangerous way, warns the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
“IOM has a zero tolerance policy for any type of homophobia, transphobia or biphobia and does not tolerate any abuses against migrants and host communities receiving assistance or protection from IOM,” saidDirector General William Lacy Swing.

A group of UN and international human rights experts urged States and other stakeholders to protect trans and gender diverse children and adolescents effectively from discrimination, exclusion, violence and stigma and to foster supportive family environments for trans and gender diverse people.

“We urge States worldwide to adopt a legal and policy framework, with comprehensive implementation measures, to protect the rights of trans and gender diverse youth, respectful of gender diversity, and to enable the realization of their fullest potential,” they said in a news release from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) said that its vision of zero discrimination and ending AIDS by 2030 will only become a reality if the response to HIV reaches everyone, including LGBTI people.

“Many young gay and transgender people are rejected by their families, living on the streets, facing all types of discrimination and violence,” said UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé. “This is not the path to healthy and productive societies. We must encourage inclusion and compassion and ensure that networks of support are in place, including access to essential health and social services.”

The Day's theme this year is 'Love Makes a Family.'


Young people debate LGBTI issues for the first time at MUN event in Trinidad and Tobago

For the first time in the Caribbean, young adults from secondary schools across the Caribbean area met in Port of Spain to simulate a debate of the United Nations General Assembly. 50 member states were represented by young men and women, who researched their positions on the rights of lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender and intersex persons.

For two days the delegates exchanged sometimes passionate dialogue on the issue. Some delegates pleaded with the Assembly to recall the founding of the Organisation and what it stands for- including the equal rights of all persons regardless of their sexual orientation. Others, despite their personal belief, stood firm on the UN Charter's recognition of the sovereign rights of their  states even if it meant discriminating against LGBTI persons. Middle Eastern states supported the proposal by some African states delegates that Western states should create opportunities for LGBTI persons to migrate freely to escape discrimination in their respective regions. They agreed in principle that all human beings should have equal rights, but believed that cultural and religious belief could not permit them to adopt such liberal 'western' concepts.

The Debate ended on a positive note, with most states conceding to implement mechanisms that investigated human rights abuses against LGBTI persons and look forward to further dialogue on a mutually acceptable way forward. 

President of the Rotary Club of Central Port of Spain, congratulated the young people, their parents and financial supporters for choosing to opt in for the dialogue on this issue, which by and large remains taboo in the Caribbean or otherwise not encouraged. She also saw this as the beginning of the shifting of paradigms on equality and non-discrimination.

This year the Rotary Club of Central Port of Spain, celebrated 20 years of organising and hosting Model United Nations simulations.

UN ‘Free & Equal’ campaign launches video spotlighting LGBT diversity, fight against homophobia

05 14 free equal 02 med4 May 2015 – A new United Nations ‘Free & Equal’ campaign video highlighting the diversity of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) community is being shown today on the massive screens in New York’s Times Square ahead of International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia.

The Day, marked Sunday, 17 May in countries around the world, this year focuses on the plight faced by young people in the LGBTI community. The two-and-a-half-minute video played on the giant Reuters and NASDAQ screens in Times Square focuses on the contributions this community makes to families and local communities around the world.

The cast features real people filmed in their workplaces and homes – among them, a firefighter, a police officer, a teacher, an electrician, a doctor, a volunteer and two same sex parents. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also makes an appearance in the video’s final scene, helping to underscore the UN’s appeal for allies to join the push for greater acceptance and equality for LGBT people everywhere. The singer Sara Bareilles lent her support to the project by granting permission for her iconic song Brave to be used for the video’s soundtrack.

“Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people are now reaching new frontiers and celebrating remarkable achievements. Despite this transformation, acts of discrimination and violence continue against the LGBTI community,” said Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) in a video message to mark the International Day.

“We cannot tolerate picking and choosing rights in a modern society – a society where diversity is celebrated; a society where everyone, no matter where they live or whom they love, is able to live in peace and security; a society where everyone can contribute to the health and well-being of their community,” he added, calling on everyone to join the movement for social justice, equality and equity, so that all people can live with respect and dignity.  [ read more  ]

UN Free and Equal Video.

 {module UNFE 2015 ad}



Special Rapporteurs conduct a joint study visit to the Caribbean

OASandUNrapporteurs lgPress Release Trinidad/Geneva (28 April 2015) -  Rashida Manjoo, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, its Causes and Consequences, as well as Commissioner Tracy Robinson, in her capacity as Rapporteur on the Rights of Women of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, jointly conducted a study visit to four English-speaking Caribbean countries between 15 and 28 April 2015. This joint activity took place in the broader context of the cooperation and partnership between the international and regional systems of protection of human rights.

During their study visit, the Rapporteurs visited  Jamaica[1], Barbados, Dominica, and Trinidad and Tobago. The Rapporteurs express their gratitude to the governments of these countries for their openness to this visit and their facilitation of meetings. Dialogue with both State and non-state actors focused on priority issues concerning violence against women and girls and the prevention and response to this human rights violation. Meetings were held with Parliamentarians, representatives from Government Ministries, law enforcement entities, Family Courts’ magistrates and staff, other magistrates and judges, indigenous community members, rural communities, university students and faculty, school children and teachers, service providers, civil society organizations and relevant United Nations entities.

(UNIC photo: [right] Rashida Manjoo, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, its Causes and Consequences, as well as [left] Inter American Commission Commissioner Tracy Robinson at a press briefing  - UN House in Port of Spain, Trinidad & Tobago )

The Rapporteurs note that many interlocutors described violence against women and girls as normalized, widespread and of pandemic proportions, and underreported. Some of the manifestations referred to within the home, community, workplace and in state institutions included psychological, physical, sexual, economic and institutional violence. Human rights issues affecting lesbian, bisexual and trans women were referred to continuously in meetings, including practices described as “corrective” violence. The issue of a rise in the prevalence of gender-related killings, as the ultimate act in a continuum of violence, was also highlighted in some contexts.

The issue of sexual violence against girls was raised in all four countries as a widespread concern. For example in one country the Rapporteurs were notified by a government entity that 97 percent of all reported cases of child victims of sexual violence were girls. Interviewees stated that in many instances private resolution of these cases was undertaken between the perpetrator and the victim’s family. Mention was also made of the disproportionate use of detention in the case of girls in need of protection, many of whom are victims of violence, for “wandering” or for being “uncontrollable”. The Rapporteurs also received information from both state officials and civil society that in some countries girls are incarcerated in adult facilities due to the lack of specific facilities for juveniles, which exposes them to the risk of institutional violence.

The normative framework and standards are articulated in the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Declaration on the Elimination

of Violence against Women and the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence against Women (“Convention of Belém do Pará”). States have a duty to respond to all forms of violence against women and girls with due diligence in the protection, prevention, investigation, prosecution, punishment and provision of effective remedies, including reparations. The duty to respond to and prevent violence involves a set of measures including legislation, policies, programs, and services, which should be responsive to the needs of the women and girls. The response of the State should consider the varying needs of different groups of women due to factors such as the history of discrimination and inequality, age, race, ethnic background, disabilities, sexual orientation and gender identity, among others.

 The Rapporteurs acknowledge the efforts undertaken by the Governments to adopt and reform existing legislation concerning domestic violence and sexual offenses, to develop national gender policies, to create bureaus in charge of gender issues, and to provide a number of programs and services for victims of violence against women. Development of training programs, protocols and new institutions, particularly in the policing sector, were also noted. Comparatively less attention has been given to the issue of sexual harassment in various contexts. The Rapporteurs were also informed about the technical assistance being provided by UN agencies working in the Region, including in the implementation of awareness-raising campaigns, and also their support to the governments in processes concerning legal reform, the development of protocols and national action plans, and training initiatives, among others.

 The Rapporteurs were also informed that crimes against women and girls were often met with a lack of accountability and effective remedies, and practices that revictimized those who made complaints. They were told, for example, that some in positions of authority minimized sexual violence and described it as “just a little sex’’ and those interviewed indicated serious problems with the practice of “confrontations” between the victims and the alleged aggressors during police investigations. The limitations of existing laws as well as the narrow interpretation and the lack of implementation of laws, policies and protocols were also noted as challenges. Regarding protection orders, in theory they should be speedy, effective and accessible but in practice they were referred to as just ‘pieces of paper’, which did not provide a holistic or effective response based on the needs of the victim.

 Both State and non-State actors voiced concern over the inadequate understanding of a gendered response to violence against women and girls, which in all four countries reflected a focus on men and boys, with violence against women being treated as a secondary issue. Numerous interventions highlighted the struggle of civil society to maintain the focus on violence against women and girls, despite the evidence of its pervasiveness, and the lack of adequate support and partnership in provision of services including safe houses. The numerous challenges identified require that in order to provide an effective response to violence against women and girls, there needs to be: more resources allocated; ongoing monitoring and evaluation of policies and training programmes; proper data collection; and implementation of appropriate complaints mechanisms to strengthen accountability.

 In conclusion, the Rapporteurs would like to reiterate that a holistic approach to responding to and preventing violence against women and girls requires addressing individual, institutional and structural violence which disproportionately affects women and girls. Violence against women is a human rights violation, which precludes the realization of all other human rights and is a barrier to the effective exercise of citizenship rights.


 [1] As a Jamaican national, Commissioner Robinson did not participate in the Jamaica leg of the Study Visit. An attorney from the Executive Secretariat of the Inter-American Commission participated in the Jamaica leg of the Study Visit.


Ms. Rashida Manjoo (South Africa) was appointed Special Rapporteur on Violence against women, its causes and consequences in June 2009 by the UN Human Rights Council. As Special Rapporteur, she is independent from any government or organization and serves in her individual capacity. Ms. Manjoo is a Professor in the Department of Public Law of the University of Cape Town. Learn more, visit: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Women/SRWomen/Pages/SRWomenIndex.aspx


Tracy Robinson is a citizen of Jamaica. She was elected at the 41st OAS General Assembly in June 2011 for the standard four-year term, which began on January 1, 2012 and ends on December 31, 2015. She is the Rapporteur for the Rights of Women and the Rapporteur for the Rights of LGBTI Persons on the Commission. She held the post of Chair of the Commission from March 2014 to March 2015. She is also a senior lecturer at the Faculty of Law, University of the West Indies, Mona Campus.



Download the official Press Release  below:



How the Caribbean mesures up on LGBTI instruments

The chart below compares the English and Dutch speaking Caribbean to the other major regions in the world in terms of human righs tools to promote and protect LGBTI rights. Five areas were exanined and the original results published in the Gurdian online (UK).

HR Tools : (1) Decriminalisation of consensual sex between adults, (2) Protection from discrimination in the workplace, (3) Protection from hate crimes, (4) Marriage between same sex adults and (5) Adoption

30 % of Caribbean States have decriminalised or did not have laws punishing consensual sex between adults. In latin America and North America all countries have already taken this action and also implemented legislative tools to protect LGBTI from hate crimes.  Canada and Uruguay afford their citizens all rights. The United States of America recognises marriage at the federal level.


lgbti graphic2014
UN AIDS survey 2013 recently released shows that in Trinidad and Tobago approximately 70 percent of persons polled did not beleive that gays should be treated differently or as unequals, and more than 60 percent also feels that there should be legal frameworks to protect LGBTI from hate crimes.

However the governement has not yet taken any actions.

Trinidad and Tobago's Immigration Act  prohibits the entry to homosexuals.


Barbados' laws punish consensual sex between males with life sentence. Its government expressed in 2011 that it would not be dictated by the UK to ammend its position in order to be a benifeciary of financial assistance. Recent polls indicate a growing tolerance for LGBT community.  The survey conducted in 2010 revealed that people were open to having gays as friends but were concerned about them in positions of influence or leadership for example teachers and politicians.

Jamaica punishes sex between males with 10 years imprisonment. It's society is aggressively homphobic and there have hate crimes including assault with weapons and killing of homosexuals. LGBTI members are known to be discriminated against by members of the civil services including medical staff and police officers. Some Jamaican artistes encourage violence and killing of gay people in their music.

Suriname has leagalised same sex activities since the 19 century however its government does not recognise LGBTI as marginalised or minority groups; Representatives of the state have indicated taken this positon because it has not been declared by the United Nations General Assembly.



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