The United Nations (UN) have issued a strict warning to all member countries that the COVID-19 pandemic must not be used as an excuse to attack the LGBT+ community.
Since a global quarantine went into effect, numerous countries have been abusing emergency powers to undermine LGBT+ people. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, said, “LGBTI people have previously been blamed for disasters, both manmade and natural, and there are scattered reports of this happening in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Bachelet criticised Hungary’s recent decision to implement new laws which will make it impossible for a trans/intersex person to have their gender legally recognised. A member of the European Parliament and co-president of Intergroup on LGBTI Rights, Marc Angel, has previously decried the bill, “This move does not only intentionally silence the trans community – it seeks to erase it and deny its existence.”
Speaking to Buzzfeed, YouTuber Emma Molnar detailed what these changes mean for trans people in Hungary, “There’s lots of people in my community who are desperate and sad and thinking about ending their life. It’s just horrible. I don’t want to lose good people because of this. How could I live my life like that, with the papers of a man.”
In Poland, the LGBT+ community organised an online protest to fight against a new law that bans sex education from schools as a means to silence queer people. A New York-based advocacy group, Human Rights Watch, called out the Polish government for debating the bill during a time when large-scale demonstrations are prohibited due to COVID-19.
Bachelet further spoke out about the challenges that may be experienced by younger queer people, “Due to stay-at-home restrictions, many LGBTI youth are confined in hostile environments with unsupportive family members or cohabitants. This can increase their exposure to violence, as well as their anxiety and depression.”
For LGBTI people, home may not be a safe place to be. Given #StayAtHome restrictions and lockdown measures, we need to make sure they have access to shelter and support during this #COVID19 crisis.#StandUp4HumanRights? @free_equal
— Michelle Bachelet (@mbachelet) April 17, 2020
As a response to the ongoing attacks against the LGBT+ community, the United Nations have drafted a six point action plan to address these issues. It instructs member countries to speak out against hate speech and discriminatory actions, changes made to health service must maintain accessibility, and the vulnerabilities facing queer people need to be addressed.
Bachelet further pointed out that queer people “regularly experience stigma and discrimination while seeking health services already.” She spoke about the importance of implementing systems which will address the healthcare needs of people living with HIV and AIDS.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights further stated, “A few countries have put in place restriction of movement based on sex, with women and men allowed to leave their homes on alternate days, which have put non-binary and trans people at risk of heightened discrimination, as they may get stopped and questioned.”
During this period of physical distancing, attacks against the LGBT+ community have seen a noticeable surge, from a Northern Ireland politician blaming COVID-19 on same sex marriage to continuous restrictions placed upon blood donations. Amid this, the United Nations six-point plan strongly advocates for queer people to be “taken into consideration and their voices heard when addressing the pandemic.”
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