Joint Statement on the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Intersexphobia and Transphobia

As delivered at the 1475th Permanent Council, Vienna, 23 May 2024

Madam Chair,

I am delivering this statement on behalf of Canada, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland, the United States and my own country, the United Kingdom.

May 17th marked the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Intersexphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT).  The theme for this year’s international day was “No one left behind: equality, freedom and justice for all.”

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights holds that “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights” - but this is a promise that has not yet been fulfilled for many LGBTQI+ persons across the world. 

Still today, LGBTQI+ persons often face discrimination in education, employment, health and housing and other aspects of their lives. Still today, on far too many occasions, and in far too many places, individuals are criminalized, persecuted, tortured, and even killed for who they are and whom they love. 

In many of our societies, transgender, non-binary, and gender diverse people still face discrimination, harassment, and violence due to their gender identity or expression. Intersex people can also face the possibility of medically unnecessary or deferrable interventions.

In this regard, we welcome the adoption on April 4th of a landmark UN Human Rights Council resolution calling for enhanced efforts to combat discrimination, violence and harmful practices against intersex persons.  The resolution also calls on States to work to realize the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health for persons with innate variations in sex characteristics.

The Resolution is a step in the right direction to ensuring everyone enjoys the same human rights and fundamental freedoms, regardless of their sexual orientation, their gender identity and expression, or their sex characteristics.

In many parts of the OSCE region, LGBTQI+ persons are marginalized, discriminated against, mistreated and persecuted.  Regrettably, the situation is heading in the wrong direction in several participating States.      

For example, in the Russian Federation, severe legislative restrictions have effectively outlawed any public expression of LGBTQI+ identity, creating a climate of fear and intimidation and restricting the freedom of expression of all people in Russia. 

In November 2023, the Supreme Court of Russia labelled the so-called "international LGBT movement" as "extremist", appearing to extend to any person who advocates for the human rights of LGBTQI+ persons or who advocates respect for people regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, and sex characteristics.  Since last November, Russian and international media have reported cases of journalists, activists, influencers and just common citizens being interrogated, arrested, investigated or prosecuted for displaying "extremist symbols", such as earrings with the colours of the rainbow or Pride flags.

These developments are all the more abhorrent in the context of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine and as the Russian authorities seek to justify their brutal attempts to undermine Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and democracy with the cynical assertion of a need to defend so-called “traditional values” against so-called “western values”.

In Belarus, LGBTQI+ persons continued to experience discrimination, harassment, threats, and violence at the hands of the authorities.  According to its Prosecutor General, the government has prepared a draft law punishing the promotion of “non-traditional relationships”.  

We regret that several participating States continue to criminalize consensual same-sex relationships.  These laws run counter to our OSCE commitments on non-discrimination.  We urge all OSCE participating States to uphold their OSCE commitments and international obligations and protect and respect the human rights, and address the needs, of all, including LGBTQI+ persons.

We must continue to work towards ensuring non-discrimination and equal access to education, employment, housing and health services.

We must ensure that civil society organisations, human rights defenders, and community leaders are able to work and advocate on issues affecting LGBTQI+ persons without undue restrictions or fear of reprisals. 

We must take into account intersecting forms of discrimination based on ethnic origin, gender, disability, and other factors.

Sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and sex characteristics should never be used as bases for discrimination or abuse, nor should they be barriers for achieving equality, freedom and justice.

On this IDAHOBIT, we stand in solidarity with LGBTQI+ persons everywhere who are peacefully pressing for recognition of their human rights and fundamental freedoms.

No one should be left behind. 

Thank you.