Connect with us

Concerns at levels of misinformation and particular barriers facing LGBT+ people in the UK were among the issues highlighted by the UN Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity (IESOGI), Victor Madrigal-Borloz following his recent visit to the UK.

Preliminary findings of the UN Independent Expert 

Madrigal-Borloz conducted an official visit to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in April and May 2023. These country visits are a chance for UN human rights experts to examine the situation on the ground in terms of how people can realise their rights, to note good practice, and to advise the State (in this case the United Kingdom) on areas for improvement.

This was the final country visit of Madrigal-Borloz’s mandate as IESOGI, and a final report of his visit will be available in a few months.  However, he shared his preliminary findings, including:

  • his concern at the levels of misinformation feeding political, social, and legislative debates around legal recognition of gender identity.
  • particular barriers LGBT+ people face in the UK, including in relation to accessing rights to education, health and adequate housing.

Madrigal-Borloz also highlighted that the:

  • allocation of resources by government authorities must reflect the prioritization of human rights protection without discrimination, and the use of resources must be optimized to achieve those ends.
  • importance of data gathering to advance human rights law and policy decisions cannot be overstated.

Civil society groups and community members raise issues with the UN Independent Expert

On Friday 28 April, Just Fair joined civil society groups and members of the LGBT+ community in Belfast, Northern Ireland, to meet with Madrigal-Borloz and his team.

During this meeting we shared the recent independent civil society report for England and Wales submitted to the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) and raised two key points from the evidence contained in it:

  • are experiencing a pay gap of about 16% s vs the rest of the population.
  • are experiencing a homelessness crisis – 24% of young people experiencing homelessness identify as LGBT+.
  • face widespread discrimination in health settings, and over 14% (1 in 7) LGBT+ people report avoiding seeking healthcare for fear of discrimination.
  • 63% of respondents to the Trans Lives Survey experienced transphobia while seeking employment. This rose to 73% of Black people and People of Colour (BPOC) respondents and 69% of disabled people for whom the question was relevant – this intersectional discrimination is perhaps not surprising, but important and something we came across repeatedly in our report (this relates to the right to work).
  • In relation to the right to just and favourable conditions of work, there were high levels of reported transphobia from colleagues, with 80% of non-binary respondents to the Trans Lives Survey reporting transphobia at work and 73% of Trans men and 73% of Trans women experiencing transphobia. This increased to 88% for BPOC.
  • Relating to right to protection of the family (article 10) – concerns were raised in written evidence about the protection of Trans people following amendments made to then proposed legislation on Ministerial maternity leave (now enacted) which made the provision less inclusive. Further issues were identified in relation to the family rights of Trans individuals due to legal provisions which require applicants for a gender recognition certificate who are married or in civil partnership to obtain the explicit consent of their partner.
  • In relation to the right to health – Trans people also experience discrimination in accessing care. 14% of Trans respondents to the Trans Lives Survey reported being refused care on at least one occasion because they were Trans. In addition, Trans people experience long waiting times for access to appropriate treatment and report being denied treatment despite recommendations from the British Medical Association. The Trans Lives Survey shows 70% of respondents were impacted by transphobia and 57% of Trans people reported avoiding going to the doctor when unwell.
  • In terms of the right to education we noted the need for proper implementation of equality laws and adequate protection of Trans pupils in school.

The foundational principles of universality and non-discrimination in Universal Declaration of Human Rights make it clear that we must all work to respect, protect and fulfil the rights of all people.  This includes working to dismantle the particular barriers that LGBT+ people in the UK face.

We look forward to Madrigal-Borloz’s report.  In his preliminary findings he noted:

“At the end of the visit, the Independent Expert stands in awe of the courage, resilience, resourcefulness and joy that he witnessed in his exchanges with lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and gender diverse persons, LGBT-led and LGBT-serving organizations, all of whom carry out their lives and their work in the United Kingdom under the extreme pressure and hostility of a public debate which, today, questions rights that are directly connected with their dignity and, in some cases, their very existence.”

Photo of Helen Flynn with Victor Madrigal-Borloz

Helen Flynn, Head of Policy, Research and Campaigns at Just Fair meets Victor Madrigal-Borloz,  UN Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, in Belfast.