PANAMA CITY, 17 May 2019—In recent years, Latin America and the Caribbean have made significant progress in protecting and recognizing the rights of people with diverse sexual orientations, gender identities, gender expressions and sexual characteristics. This progress is worthy of celebration and brings us closer to the path laid out by the ambitious Sustainable Development Agenda, which is anchored by the principle of leaving no one behind.
On the other hand, the Resolution to address the causes of disparities in access and use of health services by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, approved in September 2013 by the Ministers of Health of the Americas, recognizes that stigma and discrimination have real and adverse effects on the health of LGBTI people4 .
While these advances are important, we must recognize that progress has not been the same in all countries and there are still important challenges around ending violence and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people. In the region, nine countries still criminalize same-sex relationships, with penalties that include life imprisonment.
Prejudice, discrimination and violence against LGBTI people have a broad impact on human rights and public health, including the ability of LGBTI people to access justice, protection, healthcare, education, work and other rights inherent to citizens.
Laws that criminalize consensual relationships between adults of the same sex, that impose discriminatory restrictions on public discussion of the rights of LGBTI persons or the work of LGBTI organizations and human rights defenders, violate international human rights standards. There is no progress in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals while there are citizens whose rights and opportunities are restricted.
Public prejudice against LGBTI people can never justify such laws, nor restrictive measures. Rather, it requires states to take specific measures to protect LGBTI persons from violence and discrimination, to foster a context of respect and to overcome such prejudices through public education.
Recently, the Inter-American Human Rights System reiterated, through the Advisory Opinion of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, that sexual orientation and gender identity are categories protected by the American Convention on Human Rights. Therefore, any rule, act or discriminatory practice based on these characteristics of people is prohibited.
The defense of human rights, without discrimination, including on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, is one of the pillars of the United Nations. Under this mandate, the United Nations Sustainable Development Group for Latin America and the Caribbean calls on States to comply with their human rights obligations, without any type of discrimination.
4Resolution CD52/18: Addressing the causes of disparities in health service access and utilization for lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans persons.