This speech at the ICPD25 Nairobi Summit was delivered by Martin Karadzhov, Chair of ILGA World’s Youth Steering Committee, during the signature session titled “My body, my life, my world – 1.8 billion reasons why”

Whether you are lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, non-binary, intersex, queer youth, or any youth with diverse sexual orientation, gender identity and expression or sex characteristics, it is time, for our bodies, our lives, our rights, and our identities to be respected and protected. Because this is also our programme, our future and our world, too.

My name is Martin, my pronouns are he/him, and I am proud to be a queer Bulgarian young person.

I am standing here – nearly as old as the Programme of Action – having the impossible task, only for just three minutes, to bring the visibility to LGBTQI youth that has been missing in the eyes of the Programme.

We must acknowledge that we LGBTQI youth feel invisible: we have felt ignored, we have felt not welcomed, and we have been left behind in the last 25 years.

Globally, LGBTQI young people still face discrimination in every single state on this planet. We remain prosecuted and killed across the world.

70 countries still criminalise same-sex relationships and actsincluding here in Kenya. And in some, LGBTQI youth can face the death penalty. We also experience a wide range of harmful practices, which are often state-implemented.

Intersex youth continue to face discrimination and violence. Across the world unethical, non-consensual medically unnecessary surgeries are performed on intersex children and youth, and yet intersex rights are still neglected and ignored in the framework of harmful practices.

Young trans women – particularly young trans women of colour – are being murdered at an alarming rate across the world.

Furthermore we, as LGBTQI youth and adolescents, face the harmful practice of ‘conversion’ therapies which are unscientific, unethical and, in some instances, torturous. And yet, they are still commonplace and legal in 180 United Nations member states.

That’s not all: LBTI young women, girls and non-binary people face extreme sexual and physical violence in and out of school, by their peers and communities.
Gender diverse people – but not them alone – are denied and still left out of vital sexual and reproductive health services, which are not inclusive nor accessible due to stigma and discrimination.

We are more likely, as the UN Independent Expert on SOGI has reported, to become homeless, to not go to school, to not get a job due to the discrimination we face – and, unfortunately, to so much more…

But I call on all of us – on this stage and here at this summit – to do more as a global community, to embrace intersectional issues, to join our struggles and our movements.

Injustice for one is an injustice for all of us.

As a queer feminist, today, I personally commit to work across movements and advocate for bridging the gaps between LGBTQI and sexual and reproductive health and rights in order to advance the rights of all young people.

And I urge decision-makers and governments at this summit to commit to protecting and respecting our rights by banning harmful practices and repealing all laws that prosecute and discriminate us, and by removing barriers for all to access sexual and reproductive health services.

Our existence and identities are NOT up for debate: our bodies are ours, our human rights are NOT controversial and our lives are NOT less worthy.

“No one left behind” is maybe not enough of a committment: we need to be actively and meaningfully involved in the decision-making and shaping of future agendas.

We can’t wait another 25 years. We are not the future. We are here, have always been, and we are ready, to lead the way.

Thank you!