Global health organizations are calling out violence against LGBTQ people motivated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Joint United Nations Programme on AIDS and MPact Global Action for Gay Men’s Health and Rights expressed concern that LGBTQ and intersex people “are being singled out, blamed, abused, incarcerated and stigmatized as vectors of disease,” as they put it in a Monday press release.
They mentioned reports that a gay, HIV-positive man in Belize recently died after being beaten by police. He had been arrested for breaking a curfew imposed to lessen the spread of the virus, the groups said.
They also noted the arrest of 20 people gathered at an LGBTQ safe house in Uganda, with police claiming they were violating social distancing orders, but activists contend the arrests were part of ongoing anti-LGBTQ oppression there. And in the Philippines, three people from the community were among a group arrested for violating curfew, and a police captain publicly humiliated them by asking them to dance and kiss each other. After video of the incident circulated widely, he was forced to apologize.
“We are receiving reports that government and religious leaders in some countries are making false claims and releasing misinformation about COVID-19 that has incited violence and discrimination against LGBTI people,” George Ayala, executive director of MPact, said in the release. “Organizations and homes are being raided, LGBTI people are being beaten, and there has been an increase in arrests and threatened deportation of LGBTI asylum seekers.”
“There is also growing concern over privacy and confidentiality in the way governments are using Internet-based technologies and smartphones to monitor people’s movements during lockdowns or curfews,” he added. “Gay men and gender-nonconforming people are often the first targets and among the most impacted by increased policing and surveillance efforts.”
“HIV has taught us that violence, bullying and discrimination only serve to further marginalize the people most in need,” said Winnie Byanyima, executive director of UNAIDS. “All people, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, are entitled to the right to health, safety and security, without exception. Respect and dignity are needed now more than ever before.”
The organizations urged countries to:
Denounce misinformation that scapegoats, slanders, or otherwise blames LGBTI people for the spread of COVID-19
Stop raids on LGBTI-led organizations, shelters and spaces and desist from arresting people based on their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression
Ensure that all measures to protect public health are proportionate and evidence-informed, and respect human rights
Prevent the use of state surveillance on LGBTI people’s personal communication technologies
Invest in the COVID-19 response, while safeguarding funds and HIV/sexual health programs that are inclusive and sensitive to the needs of LGBTI people
Safeguard continued access to lifesaving medical support, including harm reduction, condoms and lubricant, pre-exposure prophylaxis, antiretroviral therapy, hormone replacement therapies, and mental health services for LGBTI people
Provide flexible service delivery options, from multimonth dispensing of medications to community delivery and virtual consultation and support options
Consider designating community-led service organizations as essential service providers so that they can provide flexible, safe delivery of key services
Include LGBTI people in national social protection schemes, including income support
Increase access to appropriate emergency and safe housing for homeless and recently evicted LGBTI people
Engage LGBTI people in public health planning and messaging around COVID-19
Implement safety monitoring and hacking mitigation during virtual meetings
“Now more than ever, we must stand together to protect and promote the health and human rights of LGBTI people worldwide,” the release concludes.