Victor Madrigal-Borloz is the first United Nations independent expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Recently, he spoke at Boston campus of Northeastern University about his work as the United Nations’ first independent expert on the protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. He said that in the last two years, India, Botswana, Trinidad and Tobago have reoriented international law protecting the LGBTQA+ community. They decriminalized homosexuality with a legal argument based on an individual’s dignity, which historically underpinned the effort to eliminate discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Further, he discussed the new challenges that the LGBTQA+ community has started to face. When approaching retirement and elder care, many institutions are unprepared to handle LGBTQA+ individuals and their unique needs. There are concerns about being forced back into the closet, the long-term effects of medicine used to treat HIV/AIDS, and the dangers of mental deterioration when people feel that it is unsafe to freely express sexual orientation and gender identity. Despite of all the progress, it is still illegal to be gay in 70 countries, ten of which apply the death penalty anti-gay laws. There are 21 countries where it is illegal to be transgender, and at least 23 countries where it is illegal to be a lesbian. A large part of Madrigal-Borloz’s work is persuading these countries that it is impossible to align their legislation with the United Nation’s human rights framework.
According to Madrigal-Borloz, it can be difficult to overcome the cultural hierarchies that place LGBTQA+ people at the bottom. That makes it all the more important to focus on listening to the community in a given country. Struggles also arise when progress is not spread evenly across the community. Often there is information about the key population of gay men, but none on lesbians or anyone who identifies as bisexual or pansexual.
Shahjadi Jemim Rahman