We all have a sexual orientation and a gender identity, and this shared fact means that discrimination against members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community, based on sexual orientation and/ or gender identity, is an issue that transcends that community and affects all of us.
Sexual orientation covers sexual desires, feelings, practices and identification. Sexual orientation can be towards people of the same or different sexes (same-sex, heterosexual or bisexual orientation). Gender identity refers to the complex relationship between sex and gender, referring to a person's experience of self expression in relation to social categories of masculinity or femininity (gender). A person's subjectively felt gender identity may be at variance with their sex or physiological characteristics.
Amnesty International believes that all people, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, should be able to enjoy their human rights. Although the Universal Declaration of Human Rights does not explicitly mention sexual orientation or gender identity, evolving conceptions of international human rights law include a broad interpretation to include the rights and the protection of the rights of LGBT people around the world.
The Yogyakarta Principles on the Application of International Human Rights Law in Relation to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, developed in 2006 by a group of LGBT experts in Yogyarkarta, Indonesia in response to well-known examples of abuse, provides a universal guide to applying international human rights law to violations experienced by lesbians, gay men, bisexual and transgender people to ensure the universal reach of human rights protections.
However, across the globe, there remain many instances where an individuals' sexual orientation or gender identity can lead them to face execution, imprisonment, torture, violence or discrimination. The range of abuse is limitless and it contravenes the fundamental tenets of international human rights law.
Human rights abuses based on sexual orientation or gender can include violation of the rights of the child; the infliction of torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment (Article 5); arbitrary detention on grounds of identity or beliefs (Article 9); the restriction of freedom of association (Article 20) and the denial of the basic rights of due process.
- Execution by the state
- Denial of employment, housing or health services
- Loss of custody of children
- Denial of asylum
- Rape and otherwise torture in detention
- Threats for campaigning for LGBT human rights
- Regular subjection to verbal abuse
In many countries, the refusal of governments to address violence committed against LGBT people creates a culture of impunity where such abuses can continue and escalate unmitigated. Often, such abuses are committed by the state authorities themselves, with or without legal sanction.
People detained or imprisoned solely because of their homosexuality - including those individuals prosecuted for having sex in circumstances which would not be criminal for heterosexuals, or for their gender identity - are considered to be prisoners of conscience and Amnesty International calls for their immediate and unconditional release.
Amnesty International calls for the decriminalization of homosexuality where such legislation remains, including a review of all legislation which could result in the discrimination, prosecution and punishment of people solely for their sexual orientation or gender identity. All such laws should be repealed or amended.
The right of adults to enter into consensual marriage is enshrined in international human rights standards.
Article 16, Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)
Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.
Civil marriage between individuals of the same-sex is therefore an issue in which fundamental human rights are at stake. Amnesty International believes that the denial of equal civil recognition of same-sex relationships prevents many people from accessing a range of other rights, such as rights to housing and social security, and stigmatizes those relationships in ways that can fuel discrimination and other human rights abuses against people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Amnesty International opposes discrimination in civil marriage laws on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity and calls on states to recognize families of choice, across borders where necessary. States should not discriminate against minority groups based on identity.
In addition, AIUSA calls on states to:
- Ensure that all allegations and reports of human rights violations based on sexual orientation or gender identity are promptly and impartially investigated and perpetrators held accountable and brought to justice;
- Take all necessary legislative, administrative and other measures to prohibit and eliminate prejudicial treatment on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity at every stage of the administration of justice;
- Ensure adequate protection of human rights defenders at risk because of their work on human rights and sexual orientation and gender identity.