Raising LGBTIQ Perspectives in UN Sustainable Development Goals on Health and Rights


The U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will ultimately impact government policies and programs worldwide and determine the course of billions of dollars in aid funds. OutRight is working to raise LGBTIQ perspectives and experiences on health and rights concerns in order to move progress forward on gender equality and health—two of the SDG goals.

During a conversation hosted by OutRight at the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women, OutRght staff member Lea Rios, a trans rights activist, addressed some of the broad health needs of the LGBTIQ community and especially transgender individuals, and the failures by governments to respond to their needs. In fact, she said, governments that marginalize and repress LGBTIQ people undermine not only human rights overall but their health status.

As an example, she cited the 2014 Nigerian law prohibiting same-sex marriage.

“Our partners in Nigeria reported that men who have sex with men weren’t showing up for their medical appointments,” Lea Rios said, because the new law created a climate of fear and greater repression for the LGBTIQ community. “These men weren’t showing up to access the medical care they needed, because they were scared of being arrested. Or they weren’t showing up because they were scared of experiencing violence.” Given the fact that men in Nigeria experience HIV rates at four times that of the general population, this is obviously a danger.

“For me that’s a really clear example of how a group that most urgently needs services are most systematically cut off from getting them because of discrimination and marginalization.” ~ Lea Rios

Lea Rios also cited reports that trans women are the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population for new cases of HIV. A 2009 report by the National Institutes of Health reported that up to one-third of trans women were HIV positive and as many as 56 percent of black trans women are. But low-cost, safe, inclusive health care for trans women is all too rare.

The point is that the most vulnerable and oppressed people-those who need help the most--are frequently left out of the health system.

And policymakers are blind to some of the realities that vulnerable groups face because they are not accurately counted in data that guides policies.

Lea Rios noted that trans woman in data reporting on HIV prevalence are most often “codified” as either cis gender women (women assigned female at birth who identify as women, rather than as trans) or as gay men. “So data that shapes policies on reproductive services do not mirror reality for trans women,” Lea Rios said.

The SDGs approved last year are a follow-up to the Millennium Development Goals. The 17 goals range from promoting global health and ending hunger to advancing gender equality and reducing inequalities.

OutRight’s discussions at CSW are intended to help advocates to build networks to empower lesbian, bisexual, trans and intersex women on global development progress.

CSW is one more way OutRight works at the U.N. to support the voices of the LGBTIQ community, and to see that no one is excluded.

In the context of global development, LBTI people are among those most vulnerable and at risk of being discriminated against and excluded. OutRight’s goal is to help remove this veil of exclusion and to call out bias.