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

27.02.2020 - Article

Human rights apply to everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity. The German Government is resolutely opposed to any form of discrimination or violence against LGBTI persons and is working to ensure equal rights for all.

Human rights include the right to free sexual orientation. However, homosexuality is still a crime in around 80 countries across the globe. In some countries, same-sex acts can even incur the death penalty. But considerable progress has been made in some countries. During the last few years, homosexuality has been decriminalised in many Latin American countries, in India as well as in some African states. Moreover, new laws have been passed in South-East European countries to protect LGBTI persons from discrimination. These successes have been largely brought about by courageous civil society activists.

Following the attack in a club in Orlando in June 2016, the Brandenburg Gate was lit up in the colours of the rainbow.
Following the attack in a club in Orlando in June 2016, the Brandenburg Gate was lit up in the colours of the rainbow.© dpa/picture alliance

The German Government opposes any form of discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity and has been making every effort to combat discrimination and violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons, collectively known as LGBTI persons. In this endeavour, it works closely with partners in civil society, both at home and abroad.

In 2007, international experts drew up the 29 Yogyakarta Principles on protecting the human rights of LGBTI persons in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. The central issues of these principles are combating violence against homosexuals and ending the criminal prosecution of homosexuality, as well as access to education, the right to have a family, freedom of assembly and the right to asylum.

Germany is working closely with international partners to protect the human rights of LGBTI persons effectively. Germany has been a member of the United Nations LGBTI Core Group since 2016. That same year, it became a founding member of the Equal Rights Coalition, which is working across the globe on this issue. Germany is also a member of the Global Equality Fund, which supports projects around the world that focus on the human rights of LGBTI persons.

LGBTI rights in the United Nations

An open and objective discussion on discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity is still very difficult in many countries as well as within the United Nations.

Nevertheless, progress has been made within the United Nations. Important milestones and achievements to date include:

  • the statement of December 2008 on sexual orientation and gender identity with regard to specific LGBTI rights, which has since been signed by 68 countries;
  • the joint statement on ending acts of violence and related human rights violations on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity, which was adopted by the Human Rights Council in March 2011; the Resolution on Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity initially adopted in June 2011 by the Human Rights Council;
  • the mandate in July 2016 for an independent UN expert who works at international level to ensure protection against discrimination and violence on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. There is thus now a point of contact in the UN for dealing with the rights of LGBTI persons. The UN Human Rights Council extended the mandate by a further three years in July 2019.

Independent Expert on Protection against Violence and Discrimination based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

In late 2017, Victor Madrigal-Borloz from Costa Rica was appointed Independent Expert on Protection against Violence and Discrimination based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity. He investigates cases of discrimination and violence against LGBTI persons and draws up proposals on how to protect their human rights effectively.

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.

The EU reacts to violations of LGBTI persons’ human rights on the basis of these guidelines. The emphasis is on measures to decriminalise LGBTI persons, eliminate discrimination against them, and protect and support human rights activists campaigning for LGBTI rights.

Projects and bilateral cooperation

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Michael Roth, Minister of State for Europe, met the organisers of the Belgrade Pride Parade in September 2016.© Marija Piroshki

Particularly in countries where the situation of LGBTI persons is precarious, the Federal Foreign Office seeks to help the victims of discrimination. Within the scope of bilateral cooperation, it has promoted numerous projects aimed at improving the human rights situation of LGBTI persons. In 2019, the Federal Foreign Office is funding a large number of projects run by local partners in countries including Tunisia, Nepal, Nicaragua, Serbia, Albania and several West African countries. In 2020, projects are planned in Zambia, Namibia, Turkey, Hungary, Brazil, Ukraine, Albania, Serbia, Nicaragua and Tunisia. It also regularly co-organises conferences with the Hirschfeld-Eddy Foundation to which LGBTI activists are invited so that they can coordinate their work more effectively.

The funding of the film “Parada”, which addresses attacks on pride parades (demonstrations for the rights of LGBTI persons), attracted considerable media attention. The film by Serbian director Srđan Dragojević was filmed in Serbia, Montenegro and Croatia and won the prestigious Panorama Audience Award at the 62nd Berlin International Film Festival in 2012. It sparked an important discussion in South-East Europe that led to a gradual change in views within society. Successful pride parades are now held in Belgrade each year. The Federal Foreign Office regularly takes part in these events.

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