Select this search icon to access the search form

Main menu

Facebook Share

LGBTI rights are human rights

    paper cranes folded, on table

    Recognize, Protect, and Promote the Rights of LGBTI People

    Around the world, the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) people are violated daily. People are beaten, imprisoned, or killed by their own governments simply because of who they are.

    There are still more than 70 countries with sodomy laws; punishment can include flogging, imprisonment, and in about a dozen jurisdictions, even the death penalty. LGBTI people, or who are perceived as such, are also routinely the victims of harassment, discrimination, and violence. Many of those who speak up for LGBTI rights—regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity—are themselves persecuted with impunity.

    Equality under the law

    Amnesty believes that all people, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, have the right to be equal under the law and the right to exercise their full range of human rights, without exception.

    The right to marry and found a family is clearly articulated under international law, the basis of which is enshrined in Article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Amnesty believes that the denial of equal recognition of same-sex relationships prevents many people from accessing a range of other rights, such as rights to housing and social security, and stigmatizes those relationships in ways that can fuel discrimination and other human rights abuses against people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

    To fulfill its human rights obligations Amnesty International recommends that all governments recognize, promote, and protect the human rights of LGBTI people as fully embedded in international human rights law and norms. 

    In addition, Amnesty asserts that all governments must continue to condemn all human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and give such violations the same consideration and concern as all other types of human rights violations based on other grounds.  Governments should support global efforts to decriminalize homosexuality and work towards LGBTI equality.

    Promoting and protecting rights for LGBTI people

    In the 70+ years since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, at a time when homosexuality was even more widely criminalized than it is now, the UN has made significant developments in promoting and protecting human rights and sexual orientation and gender identity. The UN Human Rights Committee has affirmed that no individual can be denied the enjoyment of the rights protected by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, including equality before the law and equal protection of the law, because of their sexual orientation.

    Similar affirmations that the principle of non-discrimination includes discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation have been made by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Committee on the Rights of the Child and the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. The Human Rights Committee now routinely requests information regarding the steps taken by states to prevent, address, and prohibit discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation. It urges states not only to repeal laws criminalizing homosexuality but also to enshrine the prohibition of discrimination based on sexual orientation into their constitutions or other fundamental laws.

    The Yogyakarta Principles

    In November 2006, a group of 29 international human rights experts, including a former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, UN independent experts, current and former members of human rights treaty bodies, judges, academics and human rights defenders, met in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, and affirmed a set of principles drawing on legally binding international human rights law to address the application of a broad range of international human rights standards to issues of sexual orientation and gender identity. The product of this meeting, the Yogyakarta Principles on the Application of International Human Rights Law in Relation to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, provide a universal guide to applying international human rights law to abuses experienced by lesbians, gay men, bisexual and transgender people to ensure the universal reach of human rights protections.

    Amnesty International supports the Yogyakarta Principles:

    • Rights to Universal Enjoyment of Human Rights, Non-Discrimination and Recognition before the Law
    • Rights to Human and Personal Security: fundamental rights to life, freedom from violence and torture, privacy, access to justice and freedom from arbitrary detention
    • Economic, Social and Cultural Rights: non-discrimination in the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights, including employment, accommodation, education and health
    • Rights to Expression, Opinion and Association: freedom to express oneself, one’s identity and one’s sexuality, without State interference based on sexual orientation or gender identity, including the rights to participate peaceably in public assemblies and events and otherwise associate in community with others
    • Freedom of Movement and Asylum: the rights of persons to seek asylum from persecution based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
    • Rights to Participation in Cultural and Family Life: the rights of persons to participate in family life, public affairs and the cultural life of their community, without discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity
    • Rights of Human Rights Defenders: the right to defend and promote human rights without discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and the obligation of States to ensure the protection of human rights defenders working in these areas
    • Rights to Redress and Accountability: hold rights violators accountable and ensure appropriate redress for those who face rights violations

    A joint statement delivered at the UN Human Rights Council by 54 States from four of the five UN regions on December 1, 2006, urges the Human Rights Council to “pay due attention to human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity” and commends the work of civil society in this area, and calls upon “all Special Procedures and treaty bodies to continue to integrate consideration of human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity within their relevant mandates.” As this statement recognizes, affirmed by the Yogyakarta Principles, effective human rights protection truly is the responsibility of all.

    Learn More
    Documents for Further Reference