Protection of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans­gender and intersex persons (LGBTI rights)

The German Government opposes any form of discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and has been making every effort to combat discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons. The international term for the people concerned is “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons”, or LGBTIs.

Human rights include the right to free sexual orientation. However, homosexuality is a criminal offence in around 80 countries; in some countries, same-sex acts can even incur the death penalty.

European Union

In June 2013, the EU adopted the Guidelines to Promote and Protect the Enjoyment of all Human Rights by Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) Persons.

Guidelines to Promote and Protect the Enjoyment of all Human Rights by Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) Persons

These guidelines are intended to enable the EU to react to the violation of LGBTI persons’ human rights in third countries and to have an impact on its structural causes. The emphasis is on measures to decriminalise LGBTI persons, to eliminate discrimination against them, as well as to protect and support human rights activists campaigning for LGBTI rights.

The guidelines were negotiated by the Working Party on Human Rights at the EU (COHOM), which is responsible for shaping the EU’s human rights policy vis‑à‑vis third countries. COHOM regularly monitors developments related to human rights and monitors the implementation of the guidelines.

United Nations

An open and objective discussion on discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is still very much a taboo within the United Nations.

Nevertheless, progress has been made. For example, the Yogyakarta Principles were presented by internationally renowned human rights experts in Yogyakarta/Indonesia on 23 March 2007. These 29 principles represent a global standard for guaranteeing the human rights of LGBTI persons. The central issues are combating violence against homosexuals and the criminal prosecution of homosexuality as well as access to education, the right to establish a family, freedom of assembly and the right to asylum. The German Government regards the Yogyakarta Principles as an important contribution by civil society which can rationalise the debate on discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. Germany is calling for the Yogyakarta Principles to be included in the EU’s LGBTI Toolkit.

In December 2008, a statement on sexual orientation and gender identity with regard to specific LGBTI rights was read out in the UN General Assembly, and has since been signed by 68 states. Germany, along with its EU partners, was one of the first to sign. The declaration brings together parts of existing international agreements on human rights and formulates the aim of protection from any form of discrimination, prosecution and use of force by states on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity.

In March 2011, a joint statement on ending acts of violence and the related human rights violations on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity was adopted at the 16th session of the Human Rights Council. This statement has already been signed by 85 states.

The farthest-reaching measure is the resolution on human rights, sexual orientation and sexual identity adopted by the 17th session of the Human Rights Council on 17 June 2011. This was sponsored by South Africa, which is of special importance considering that homosexuality is still a criminal offence in many African countries. The vote was close, with 23 countries voting in favour and 19 against. This shows that despite achieving this milestone, we still have a long way to go.

Council of Europe

In spring 2010, the Council of Europe adopted a recommendation to the member states on discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The recommendation relates to the application of existing provisions from international agreements, such as the non-discrimination provisions contained in the UN Human Rights Convention. It also contains a list of measures aimed at improving legislation in the member states.

Resolution 1728 of the parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe

Projects and bilateral cooperation

Particularly in those countries where the situation of LGBTI persons is especially precarious, the Federal Foreign Office seeks to help the victims of discrimination. Within the scope of bilateral cooperation, the Federal Foreign Office has already promoted numerous projects aimed at improving the human rights situation of LGBTI persons.

Examples of this are:

Launch of the film “Parada”

Launch of the film “Parada”
© dpa/picture alliance

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Launch of the film “Parada”

Launch of the film “Parada”

Launch of the film “Parada”

In Serbia, a film project which spotlighted attacks on demonstrations for the rights of LGBTI persons (gay prides) was funded. The aim was to raise awareness among the general public of homophobia and to foster tolerance towards homosexuals. The film “Parada” by the Serbian director Srdjan Dragojevic was shot in Serbia, Montenegro and Croatia and starts with the bloody outcome of the first gay parade in Belgrade in 2001. In a mixture of fiction and reality, it is about a friendship between two people from two different groups which leads to deep-seated prejudices being overcome. “Parada” was supported by the Federal Foreign Office and received the renowned Panorama Audience Award at the 62nd Berlinale in 2012.

In October 2012, funding was provided for a human rights conference in St. Petersburg organised by the Hirschfeld-Eddy Foundation on LGBTIs. Furthermore, there were high-level interventions in protest against the Russian ban on “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations to minors”, which criminalises any positive reporting on homosexuality in the presence of minors or in the media such as the Internet.

In November 2012 and 2013, projects to provide further training in the sphere of “LGBTI and religion” for LGBTI human rights activists from Africa and the Middle East were carried out: LGBTI activists travelled to Germany to meet representatives of churches, the state and other activists and organisations and to discuss their experiences and projects. Within this framework, the Federal Foreign Office and its project partner – the Hirschfeld-Eddy Foundation – organised a public conference on “Homosexuality and churches in Africa”. More information on this event is available here.

Intersex persons

In recent times, intersex persons have been included in the abovementioned LGBTI group of persons. For example, they are mentioned in the EU’s LGBTI Toolkit. Intersexuality covers various phenomena of non clear-cut gender with different – for instance chromosomal or cellular – causes. There are between 80,000 and 120,000 people in the Germany who are medically defined as intersex persons. 

In a contribution for the CEDAW Report (Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women) of February 2009 written by intersex persons, the situation of these people is described. The CEDAW Committee called on Germany to enter into a dialogue with NGOs for intersex and transsexual persons in order to gain a better understanding of their needs and to take effective measures to protect their human dignity. The German Government subsequently tasked the National Ethics Council in Germany with presenting a statement on the situation of intersex persons.


Last updated 08.07.2014

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