06 Aug

Global Sexual & Gender Identity Rights

Posted By polity_admin_user

As noted throughout Investigating Gender,gender and sexuality are intersecting and important systems of inequality globally. Publication of the first United Nations report on the human rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people gives Investigating Gender readers an opportunity to assess “Discriminatory laws and practices and acts of violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.”

The UN finds many forms of homophobia, transphobia, and human rights violations against LGBT (the acronym used in the report) people in all regions of the globe. The UN reports that LGBT people

  • experience heightened levels of interpersonal violence – killing, rape, torture, and “other forms of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment;” 
  • suffer many forms of structural violence, such as laws that criminalize same-sex sexual practice and those who identify with the “opposite” gender; 
  • face an array of discriminatory practices in education, employment, and health care, demonstrating how the oppression experienced by LGBT people applies across social institutions and highlighting how heterosexuality is privileged and reinforced, sometimes with violence. 

The UN report is significant because it is the first of its kind conducted by the organization since its inception, and the UN’s attention to sexual and gender human rights is an important move toward social justice for LGBT people globally. 

The report is relevant because it complements skills and knowledge developed across the textbook. Generally, it highlights the importance of gender and sexuality as intersecting and important systems of inequality globally. LGBT people are marginalized within these systems, making them more vulnerable to interpersonal and structural violence. For example, the UN notes that “Violence against LGBT persons tends to be especially vicious compared to other bias-motivated crimes…homophobic hate crimes and incidents often show a high degree of cruelty and brutality and include beatings, torture, mutilation, castration, and sexual assault” (8-9). Additionally, violence against LBGT people is gendered, with women – lesbians and transwomen – experiencing heightened risk of violence “because of gender inequality and power relations within families and wider society” (8). These findings reinforce a point we make in Chapter 2 Bodies, Chapter 6 Health, and Chapter 9 Interpersonal Violence: those who are socially marginalized are more likely to experience bodily harm and ill health as a result of their marginalization. 

The findings also provide insights into gendered and sexualized power in families and communities, with LGBT people being murdered by family or community members in “honor killings.” The report also demonstrates the link between masculinity and violence, as most of the perpetrators of the violence on LGBT people are groups of young men. Finally, the report concludes with a brief treatment of some of the strategies being undertaken across the globe to promote social justice for LGBT people.

To keep apprised of global human rights issues for LGBT people, we encourage you to visit Human Rights Watch’s website.