International agencies have expressed concern that the global COVID-19 health crisis is being used to target, abuse, and harass LGBTQI persons and in some cases deny them their rights.

A look at some of the cases reported from across the world reveals the risks faced by LGBTQI persons and persons living with HIV.

  • In Belize, a 25-year-old gay man living with HIV was reportedly beaten up and arrested for breaking COVID-19 related curfew, leading to his death from the injuries.
  • 23 LGBTQI Ugandans living together in a homeless shelter were arrested on charges of enabling the spread of COVID-19.
  • In Iraq, a cleric blamed legalisation of same-sex marriages as the cause of the Coronavirus pandemic.
  • A Rabbi in Israel said Coronavirus was divine punishment for gay parades.
  • A legislator in the Caribbean Cayman Islands blamed same-sex couples for the Coronavirus pandemic and natural disasters like earthquakes. He called upon the island to affirm Christian values.
  • The Hungarian government introduced a bill in its Parliament seeking to ban transgender persons from changing their gender.
  • A transwoman and health outreach worker in Panama distributing food near her home was detained by the police for stepping out on the wrong day under the gender-based social distancing rules enforced in the country.

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, in a report had pointed out that like in past instances of LGBTQI persons being blamed for natural and manmade disasters, there were scattered reports of it happening in relation to the COVID-19 crisis.

“In some countries, reports suggest an increase in homophobic and transphobic rhetoric. There are also reports of police using COVID-19 directives to attack and target LGBTQI organizations. In at least one country, the State of Emergency has been used to propose a decree that would prevent transgender people from legally changing their gender in identity documents. 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,” the report said.

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In a separate document, UNAIDS and MPact Global Action for Gay Men’s Health and Rights said they were troubled discriminatory actions that were compounding the challenges faced by LGBTQI persons from accessing health services. 

“HIV has taught us that violence, bullying, and discrimination only serve to further marginalize the people most in need. All people, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression, are entitled to the right to health, safety, and security, without exception. Respect and dignity are needed now more than ever before,” said Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of UNAIDS in a press release.

George Ayala, Executive Director of MPact said that the organisation had received reports of governments and religious leaders inciting violence against LGBTQI persons.

“Organizations and homes are being raided, LGBTQI people are being beaten, and there has been an increase in arrests and threatened deportation of LGBTQI asylum seekers,” said Ayala.

According to UNAIDS and MPACT, self-isolation and social distancing restrictions have proved challenging for LGBTQI persons who might face violence while staying at home, exacerbate pre-existing mental health conditions, and make it difficult to access “antiretroviral therapy, HIV prevention, and gender-affirming services, including hormone therapies”.

They have urged governments to respect, support, and protect the rights of LGBTQI persons in their response to COVID-19.

 

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