Human rights include the right to freedom of sexual orientation. Yet homosexuality is still a criminal offence in at least 67 countries, and in seven countries homosexual acts are even punishable by death. At least nine states criminalise the expression of trans* and non-binary gender identities.
Especially in places where lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTQI) people are persecuted by the state, they often have no protection against violence and discrimination. At the same time, they frequently have greater difficulties accessing education, employment, housing and healthcare. Particularly affected are people who face discrimination for multiple reasons, such as their skin colour and their gender identity.
Action for equal rights
The fight against violence and discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity forms part of feminist foreign policy. Action in this area is guided by the Federal Government LGBTI Inclusion Strategy for Foreign Policy and Development Cooperation, which was adopted in March 2021. It provides a strategic framework for international efforts to promote equal rights and foregrounds support for civil society.
The German Government supports projects by non-governmental organisations that combat violence and discrimination against LGBTQI people worldwide, including in countries where circumstances are challenging. These projects cover a broad spectrum, from political campaigning and education to media projects to legal and psychosocial support.
Germany’s missions abroad also liaise regularly with human rights defenders on the situation of LGBTQI people in partner countries and provide them with political support. In individual cases, they facilitate admission to Germany for temporary stays or on humanitarian grounds for people in danger. Many of the missions also show solidarity through public statements or by funding and assisting with queer cultural events.
Furthermore, the German Government works in bilateral and multilateral forums as well as through quiet diplomacy to advocate respect, protection and support for the rights of LGBTQI persons. It closely coordinates with international partners and civil society at home and abroad on these issues.
To continue expanding its international leadership role, Germany began a two-year term as co-chair of the Equal Rights Coalition (ERC) in September 2022, together with Mexico. The ERC is an alliance of 42 states and more than 140 non-governmental organisations that advocate for LGBTQI people.
Major milestones in Germany’s term as co-chair include the creation of a new Secretariat General and the organisation of the next international ERC conference for 2024. Germany joined the ERC as a founding member in 2016.
In the same year, Germany became a part of the United Nations LGBTI Core Group. It is also a member of the Global Equality Fund, which supports projects for LGBTQI people’s human rights across the globe.
The Yogyakarta Principles and the EU Guidelines to Promote and Protect the Enjoyment of all Human Rights by LGBTI Persons are also important references for the German Government’s work on LGBTQI issues.
LGBTQI rights within the United Nations
An open and objective discussion of violence and discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity remains difficult in many countries as well as within the United Nations. Nevertheless, there have been some important milestones and successes in the short history of LGBTQI rights within the United Nations.
In June 2022, for example, the most important UN resolution on LGBTQI persons was reaffirmed in a very tight vote in the Human Rights Council with the support of the German Government. The resolution condemns violence and discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity and calls on all states to abolish discriminatory laws and policies and to take effective action to prevent and punish violence and discrimination.
The resolution also renews the mandate of the UN Independent Expert on Protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. This mandate consists in investigating cases of discrimination and violence against LGBTQI persons and drawing up proposals for effective protection of their human rights. Victor Madrigal-Borloz from Costa Rica has held this office since January 2018.
The first UN Human Rights Council resolution on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity was adopted in 2011; further resolutions followed in 2016 and 2019. In 2020, a joint supraregional statement by 37 countries in the UN Human Rights Council focused attention on the rights of intersex persons. In 2021, the issue won further support, with a new statement by a total of 53 countries.