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Irina Bacci’s panel “Violence and Discrimination based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity” at the 19th Human Rights Council

Irina Bacci is the NGOs representative panellist at the 19th Human Rights Council panel discussion on Human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity held in Geneva today, 7 March 2012

Avatar of Alessia Valenza

9th March 2012 11:15

Alessia Valenza

Geneva, 7 March 2012

Watch Irina Bacci’s statement (go to 39’50) and concluding remarks (02:08:40).

Madame President of the Human Rights Council,
Madame High Commissioner for Human Rights,
Ladies and Gentlemen Embassadors, 
Distinguished panelists,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I have the honor to address myself to this Council as a human rights activist, civil society representative on this panel to share our struggles for human rights of persons whose expression, identity or behavior do not conform with the dominant norms, ie, lesbians , gays, bisexuals, transsexuals, transvestites and intersex, that throughout my speech shall call LGBTI.

I appreciate the invitation of the government of South Africa, who promoted the resolution 17/19 in 2011 and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights UN to share my experiences and especially to express my solidarity with all people whose human rights are violated by their sexual orientation and gender identity to the north and south of the equator, but especially LGBTI communities of the South countries.

ILGA – International Association of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex, in its most recent annual report on laws and regulations that restrict the fundamental rights of LGBTI people still reports that in 76 countries there are laws that criminalize consented sex between adults of the same sex. These are mostly criminal laws inherited from the colonial period that violate the fundamental rights of free expression of personality and privacy protection, and states as well; the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health stated that criminalization has effects on access to services prevention and treatment, particularly with regard to HIV / AIDS, because it feeds the social perception that these people are "abnormal" or criminal "(HRC 14/20, page 8)

However, even in countries that have recently been made legal reforms and where there are policies to protect the human rights of LGBTI people, as is the case of Brazil, violations persist and violence motivated by stigma and discrimination that often results in death or irreversible damage was not eradicated. It means recognizing that although the legal reforms are necessary and urgent still face the challenge of promoting cultural change in all societies.

The culmination of a life trajectory subject to discrimination and exclusion makes LGBT people worldwide, mainly in countries of the south, have a status of second-class citizenship and discrimination that causes a silent and cruel damage. LGBTI people, especially trans are often expelled from their homes in adolescence, have lower levels of education by a high dropout rate, difficult access to the labor market, precarious occupations, living in subhuman conditions and are marginalized in community spaces in which they live. It is also important to remember that even in Europe follow existing restrictive laws in relation to transsexuality, as is the case of compulsory sterilization for people to have access to surgery for re-adjustment. Another situation of violation to be mentioned are the surgeries performed in very young children to "gender adjustment" of intersex people.

However LGBTI people, experience discrimination and violations that can not be characterized as public offenses, because they give especially in private spaces and social life. Studies conducted by the Latin-American Sexuality and Human Rights LGBTI pride parades in the country report that discrimination is higher in families, communities and educational spaces. Violations are also common in health services and the labor market.

This context of continuing discrimination and violations means that one hand is crucial to continue investing in the transformation of our everyday culture, in public spaces but also private, in order to completely eliminate the deleterious effects of the dominant heterosexual norm on LGBTI people. That said, there is no culture or customs to justify a life marked by discrimination, rape, exclusion and violence.


The report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights UN listed a series of violations, discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity that I would highlight, as is the case of the murders and extrajudicial executions, cruel and inhuman treatment, and torture that in many countries, victims are particularly transgender people.

In my country, a survey conducted by the Human Rights Secretariat of the Presidency shows that in 2011 there were 261 homicides of LGBTI people. Among those people who lost their lives: 24.5% were transvestites or transsexuals, lesbians were 29% and 40.5% of gay men. There are indicators, however, that the number of murders has increased; according to a survey of the Gay Group of Bahia, hate crimes on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity have increased 113% from 2010 to 2011.

We also know that Brazil is the country with the highest number of murders of transvestites and transsexuals in the world and most of these murders are characterized by refinements of cruelty. The situation in the GRULAC region is also worrying, since evidence shows that in El Salvador, Mexico, Peru, Colombia, Haiti, Honduras and the English-speaking Caribbean, the number of murders of transgender people has grown critically in recent years.

Besides this, as we saw in the Brazilian data, lesbian, gay and bisexual people has also been victims of systematic killings and other violations. In Brazil, according to the GGB – Gay Group of Bahia, 27 lesbian and bisexual women were murdered in 2011, in other Latin American countries these figures are also high. ILGA to Latin America, monitored 13 murders of lesbians in the region in the years 2010 to 2011.

These manifestations of stigma and exclusion often reach levels of extreme brutality. The young Samuel Brinton (American) and Gustavo Campos (Brazil) lived family situations of extreme violence because of their sexual orientation. Samuel Briton was tortured by his father who is a missionary of the Baptist Church to stop being gay. Gustavo Campos was beaten and subjected to a hanging attempt, perpetrated by his older brother who is Evangelical pastor. In Ecuador, Paola Ziritt, a 28 year old lesbian, was forcibly sent by her mother to a "clinic that cure homosexuals" where she suffered torture and cruel and inhuman treatment, including sexual abuse. Quite possibly if there were no networks to mobilize complaints of violations of LGBTI people, we would not have any knowledge of these tragedies.

All these situations I have described are common worldwide, but the worst is that silenced by shame and fear as in the case of rape and other violence that lesbians are routinely subjected, as in South Africa, El Salvador and Kyrgysztan where violence against Lesbians also have been systematic, as illustrated by the crime committed against lesbian Millicent Gaika – attacked, strangled, raped and tortured for five hours by a man claiming to be "a healing" of lesbianism. This violence is subjective in the eyes of cultures and its invisibility in the world do not feed the various official data collected by governments.


The Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 states that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. The text also established the principle that all people have the right to life, liberty and personal security. In my understanding but also of vigilance committees and courts of human rights, violations experienced by LGBTI people hurt the principles of the Universal Declaration, as well as several subsequent conventions. And it’s important to highlight that the Declaration was ratified by all UN member countries.

In my region, countries like Argentina, Uruguay, Colombia, Brazil and the Federal District of Mexico, whether by legislative action or decision of superior courts, established rules of civil union or marriage to same sex couples. In several countries such as Uruguay, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, laws or administrative rules were approved concerning civil identity and medical procedures for readjusting the sexual identity of transsexual people.

Advances in Brazil stand out from 2004, with the creation of the Brazil Without Homophobia, the holding of two national conferences on LGBT rights and the construction of the National Plan to promote LGBT Citizenship. In 2010, President Lula instituted the National Day Against Homophobia as an official date, and created a LGBT coordination within the structure of the Human Rights Secretariat of the Presidency, as well as the LGBT National Council, of which I am president. In addition, the Ministry of Health also adopted specific national guidelines aimed at LGBT population. Education is where the greatest difficulties stand. A experience performed by the Ministry of Education in partnership with civil society organizations, the School without homophobia Project, encountered many barriers to its continuity, especially from the dogmatic religious sectors.

Legal reforms and public policies are positive, and must be valued. However as indicated by high rates of violence and discrimination they do not automatically eliminate violence, discrimination, stigma to which LGBTI people are still submitted. It is also essential naming and deconstructing the factors that produce such violations. In Brazil’s case, there are undoubtedly many factors that explain the persistence and intensification of social and institutional violence affecting LGBTI people. However one of them is undoubtedly a strong and growing movement of religious dogmatic speeches that incite hatred and violence against us, including the media. The data obtained from the hotline set by SEDH report that 44% of complaints relate to LGBTI people are associated to psychological encouragement promoted by religious extremism.

On the other hand, in my view, closer relations between local struggles, national and international mechanisms of protection of human rights are fundamental to ensure that one day we can be proud to live in a world where, in fact, all people have the right to have rights. The Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon in a speech in New York on December 10, 2010, called for the abolition of laws that criminalize relationships between adults of the same sex, citing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948, " That is why this day, this very special day means so much to me. Human Rights Day, which commemorates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is not called the partial declaration of human rights. It is sometimes the declaration of rights humans. It is the Universal Declaration, guaranteeing all human beings their basic human rights, without exception. "