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LGBTI rights

06.12.2021 - Article

Human rights apply to everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The German Government steadfastly opposes discrimination and violence against LGBTI persons and advocates for equal rights to be enjoyed by all.

The Brandenburg Gate in Berlin lit up with the colours of the rainbow
The Brandenburg Gate in Berlin lit up with the colours of the rainbow© dpa/picture alliance

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. These successes have been largely brought about by civil society.

At the same time, however, there have been retrograde steps in some countries and the scope for action for LGBTI engagement within civil society is diminishing. In particular, major challenges remain when it comes to protecting the rights of transsexual and intersexual people.

Action for equal rights

The German Government opposes all discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender traits.

In March 2021, the German Government adopted a LGBTI Inclusion Strategy for Foreign Policy and Development Cooperation. The overriding goal is to support LGBTI human rights activities on the part of civil society. To this end, the German Government is bolstering civil-society organisations by, among other things, providing financial funding, supporting dialogue formats or showing public solidarity with individuals working to combat discrimination against LGBTI persons.

Furthermore, the German Government is working in bilateral and multilateral forums as well as through quiet diplomacy to foster respect for the rights of LGBTI persons and to protect and promote these rights. This includes championing a convention on LGBTI rights at the United Nations.

Germany closely coordinates with international partners and civil society at home and abroad on these questions. 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 champions the issue around the world. Germany is also a member of the Global Equality Fund, which supports projects for LGBTI persons’ human rights worldwide.

The Yogyakarta Principles are a key frame of reference for the German Government’s work in the LGBTI sphere.

LGBTI rights at 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, there have been some important milestones and successes in the young history of LGBTI rights at the United Nations.

In March 2011, the UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity for the first time. In the resolution, violence and discrimination on the grounds of these factors is recognised and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights is called upon to document discriminating laws and practices as well as acts of violence. This mandate was extended in a follow-up resolution in 2014.

In July 2016, a further resolution mandated for the first time an independent UN expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. This mandate consists of investigating cases of discrimination and violence against LGBTI persons and drawing up proposals on how to protect their human rights effectively. Victor Madrigal-Borloz from Costa Rica has held this office since January 2018. All in all, ten reports have been drafted for the Human Rights Council and the UN General Assembly under the mandate, including ones on legislation to decriminalise LGBTI persons and to prevent discrimination against them, the legal recognition of gender identities and on conversion therapy practices.

In July 2019, the mandate of the independent expert was extended by three years in a follow-up resolution.

In 2020, attention was focused on the rights of intersexual persons as a result of a joint supraregional statement by 37 states in the UN Human Rights Council. In 2021, support for this was expanded to 53 states in a new statement.

European Union

The EU adopted the Guidelines to Promote and Protect the Enjoyment of all Human Rights by Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) Persons in June 2013. It is with these guidelines as a basis that the EU responds to violations of LGBTI persons’ human rights. The emphasis is on measures to decriminalise LGBTI persons, eliminate discrimination against them, as well as protect and support human rights activists campaigning for LGBTI rights.

Projects and bilateral cooperation

Most especially in countries where the situation is precarious for LGBTI persons, the Federal Foreign Office works to help those affected. Via bilateral cooperation, the Federal Foreign Office is funding a large number of projects on improving the human rights situation of LGBTI persons worldwide. Such projects are aimed, for instance, at providing further training for those working to combat discrimination against LGBTI persons and helping them to build networks, as well as strengthening access to justice and psychological support for the survivors of human right violations. Other projects support journalistic work relating to LGBTI rights or lobby work on decriminalisation. The Federal Foreign Office also organises conferences to improve networking among civil-society organisations in conjunction with the Hirschfeld-Eddy Foundation.

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