By Angelina Kaneva
International Women's Initiative Staff Writer
People around the world face violence and inequality, sometimes even torture and execution, because of who they love, how they look, or who they are.
Today, when the world marks the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, let us not forget that although LGBTIQ people are now more societally accepted and have managed to gain more legal rights than ever before in history, sexual orientation and gender identity, which are integral aspects of our selves, still lead to widespread discrimination and abuse.
In the late 19th Century when scientists started developing theories around sexual identity and behaviour, homosexuality, and later gender variance, were to be overwhelmingly defined as the result of chemical imbalances or mental deficiencies. This approach has been largely instrumental in creating a vision of homosexuality and transgenderism as something abnormal, hence inferior, dangerous and incapacitating.
The connection between mental illness and homosexuality, engineered by these same scientists in the late 19th and early 20th century, became so influential that it enabled the rise of the modern-day state-led criminalisation crusades against same-sex behavior, and the persecution of sexual and gender minorities.
As a result, 70 out of the 195 countries in the world not only still openly impose political limits on love, but also criminalise all same-sex consensual relations. Punishment may even include imprisonment or the death penalty. in Afghanistan, Brunei, Mauritania, Sudan, Iran, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Yemen and northern Nigeria this is a reality.
Admittedly, many laws around the world are now changing, and LGBTIQ people have made great strides in the fight for full equality. Sadly though, little of these changes have had a positive impact on LGBTIQ women. Even in countries which permit marriage or civil unions for same-sex couples, lesbian, bisexual and transgender women face disproportionate levels of violence at the hands of both strangers and intimate partners.
According to Amnesty International, for examples, such women are 1.6 times more likely to experience physical violence, 1.6 times more likely to experience sexual violence, and 1.4 times more likely to experience hate violence in public compared to other LGBTIQ individuals. Moreover, 2015 was one of the deadliest years for transgender women, causing activists such as Laverne Cox and Janet Mock to declare a “transgender state of emergency”.
A recent report by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights also suggests that LGBTIQ people are at a disturbingly elevated risk of homicidal violence, highlighting the increased risk that lesbian, bisexual, and transgender women face because of gender-based discrimination.
Furthermore, the impact of violence against LGBTIQ women goes beyond the immediate effects of physical attacks – such women face discrimination and criminalisation in a variety of other settings. This is evident at the workplace or in the public sphere, specifically when it comes to access to healthcare, housing and education.
International Women’s Initiative denounces all practices that go against the right to equality and non-discrimination in the enjoyment of human rights as stated in Articles 2 and 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and Article 2 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).
IWI strongly support the entitlement of all individuals, without exception, to the enjoyment of the full range of their human rights and urge all international policy makers to recognise the disproportionate violence and discrimination that many lesbian, bisexual, and transgender women face, and call on them to start developing strategies that consider the unique needs of these women.