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June 26, 2020 – This weekend’s Pride celebrations are a chance to celebrate and promote the rights of LGBTI people at a time when their rights are under increased threat, Amnesty International said today.

The organization warned that existing inequalities have been entrenched by months of lockdown measures, exposing LGBTI people to terrifying levels of discrimination, stigma, hostility and violence.

“This Pride weekend, LGBTI people, activists and allies around the world will show that even a global pandemic cannot stop them from demanding the rights which many governments continue to deny them,” said Nadia Rahman, Researcher and Policy Advisor in Amnesty International’s Gender, Sexuality and Identity Team.

“While virtual celebrations are a moment of hope in difficult times, countless LGBTI people will be spending Pride trapped in hostile or dangerous lockdown situations where their sexualities or identities are not accepted.

“There is an urgent need for governments to provide concrete, tailored support to LGBTI people in their countries. This includes ensuring equal access to medical services, removing barriers to employment and social security, and providing safe spaces for LGBTI people facing violence and harassment.”

Attacked and excluded

Some governments have used the pandemic as a justification to crack down on LGBTI people, pass measures that severely infringe on their rights or stigmatise them. For example in Uganda, 23 youth were arrested from a shelter for LGBTI people they lived in, on the pretext that they were guilty of “a negligent act likely to spread infection of disease,” as well as “disobedience of lawful orders.”

In the Philippines, police forced three LGBTI people to perform humiliating acts as punishment for supposedly violating the curfew. The punishment was recorded on video and posted on social media.

LGBTI people have been historically marginalized in the allocation of recourses, faced discrimination in access to health care, employment and housing, and have faced targeted criminalization laws, harassment, intimidation, arbitrary arrests, and killings by state and non-state actors. This crisis, and the individual government responses to it, have exacerbated these inequalities.

For example in India, the stimulus package announced by the Union government failed to include transgender people, even though India’s transgender population mostly make ends meet as daily wage workers, and have been seriously impacted by the crisis.

Sarah Hegazy

Amnesty International highlighted the recent death of Sarah Hegazy, a queer Egyptian activist who had been arbitrarily detained and tortured by the Egyptian authorities, as a devastating example of the cost of state-backed discrimination.

Sarah had been forced into exile to Canada about eighteen months before she took her own life, plunging LGBTI activists around the world into grief. She had written about the isolation of living in exile and her despair at the impunity enjoyed by the Egyptian authorities.

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“Sarah Hegazy was a beacon of hope, liberation, and love. As we mourn her death, we stand in solidarity with all those around the world who have faced similar injustice, discrimination and cruelty,” said Nadia Rahman

“While activists around the world will carry on Sarah’s legacy, we cannot do this alone. Governments have a responsibility to respect and protect LGBTI people. Their lived histories and equal rights within their societies must be protected, celebrated, and integrated with policies and laws preventing discrimination against them.”

The pandemic has exposed the numerous ways in which LGBTI people are still excluded and discriminated against. At a time when we should be realigning all our laws and policies to ensure the most marginalized are safe and well, this cannot be tolerated.

Amnesty International is calling on governments worldwide to:

  • Ensure access to medical services – including hormone therapy, access to gender affirming surgeries, and mental health support
  • Provide protection for LGBTI people in hostile lockdown situations, including by ensuring provisions which allow those facing domestic or family violence to access justice, support and services, including helpline facilities to report incidents of violence
  • Ensure equal access to employment, and other basic services, and ensure LGBTI people are accounted for in government stimulus packages or social
  • Halt the criminalization of LGBTI people under the pretext of COVID-19 related policies.
  • Send a clear message that stigma against LGBTI people will not be tolerated

See Protecting The Human Rights Of LGBTI People During The COVID-19 Pandemic for more information