Advancement of human rights of LGBTIQ+ people

Photo: Courtesy of UNFPA Thailand
Bangkok Pride Parade in June 2023. Photo: Courtesy of UNFPA Thailand

Significant progress has been made regarding the human rights of LGBTIQ+ people in many places in recent decades, including the decriminalization of same-sex relations and marriage equality, enhanced political participation and representation, increased protections against discrimination and hate crimes, prohibition of surgeries on intersex people, and advances in rights for transgender people including legal gender recognition, to name a few. The actions of solidarity among a diversity of feminist activists have also been a hallmark of this period.

Nonetheless, LGBTIQ+ people continue to face widespread violence, discrimination and exclusion across all regions. Abuse, targeting and policing from the interpersonal to the political levels are ubiquitous in a world still dominated by hetero- and cis-normative notions, and by patriarchal violence and stigma.

In this context, experiences differ among LGBTIQ+ people. LGBTIQ+ women, girls and gender-diverse people, especially those facing multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination, are at a greater risk of rights violations than many men from LGBTIQ+ communities.

About 2 billion people live in places where consensual same-sex relations (in approximately 62 UN Member States) and transgender people are criminalized. At least 41 countries—22 per cent—specifically criminalize consensual same-sex relations between women, and women in other countries may also be criminalized for different aspects of their gender identity. Transgender people, women in particular, are subject to criminalization under various laws restricting gender expression. Intersex people are often subjected to discrimination and abuse because of their physical characteristics or if they are perceived not to conform to gender norms, and anti-discrimination laws tend not to ban this, exacerbating vulnerability in numerous settings.

The direction of change is a mixed picture. Present contexts are fuelling injustices, and regressive movements pose a grave threat to broader gains on women’s rights (including the rights of LGBTIQ+ women and girls), gender equality, democracy and human rights — a serious concern for us all.

This is why UN Women recognizes that all women and all LGBTIQ+ people are integral to achieving the feminist goals of intersectional justice and gender equality and that we have a central role in standing up for the rights of LGBTIQ+ women and communities.

As a rights-based, feminist organization, UN Women is committed, in the pursuit of gender equality, to promoting the full realization of the human rights and equality of all people, including women in all their diversity, and all people with diverse sexual orientations, gender identities, gender expressions and sex characteristics (SOGIESC).

That the rights of women and LGBTIQ+ people generally are inextricably linked creates a strong imperative for UN Women's mandate. UN Women adopts an intersectional approach by integrating LGBTIQ+ rights and perspectives in its policy, programming and advocacy work across its triple mandate: normative, coordination and operational. UN Women’s Strategic Plan (2022-25) explicitly recognizes people with diverse ‘sexual orientations and gender identities’ in the context of gender-based inequalities, and the principle of “leaving no one behind” expressed in the Sustainable Development Goals of the Agenda 2030. LGBTIQ+ considerations are applied across our key work areas, namely: governance and participation in public life; economic empowerment; violence; peace and security; and humanitarian action and disaster risk reduction. The considerations are also applied to our cross-cutting areas, including migration, health and HIV.

LGBTIQ+ equality is also a standalone area that intersects with work on disability, youth, racial justice, and transforming patriarchal masculinities and social norms.

The history of feminist and LGBTIQ+ allied movement building is long and rich across cultures and countries. Huge potential lies ahead for mutually reinforcing our common goals towards achieving gender equality, with UN Women at the forefront of setting standards and the agenda.

UN Women has a global specialist dedicated to the rights of LGBTIQ+ people, who was posted to the regional office in Bangkok in late 2022 to enhance the organization’s capacity and build upon programming and policy work in the Asia-Pacific region. From here, they will continue to work across multiple strategic areas by providing technical guidance and substantive contributions at all levels, engaging with intergovernmental processes globally and regionally, across UN agencies, and with a diversity of civil society and other actors.

LGBTIQ+ is an acronym for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer people, and people who use other terms or none to describe their SOGIESC. UN Women also uses the term “people with diverse SOGIESC” where appropriate in global contexts while respecting their distinctions. We note that neither term is universally applicable nor reflects the full diversity of sexual and gender formations, practices and identities that exist, that terms and their usage are constantly evolving, and that SOGIESC applies to all people. In practice, various culturally, linguistically and context-specific terms may be used where appropriate.

Other terms include hijra, meti, lala, skesana, motsoalle, mithli, kuchu, kawein, travesty, muxé, fa’afafine, fakaleiti, hamjensgara and Two-Spirit.



Stories and voices

In the news

In videos