International Best Practice Guide To Equality On Sexual Orientation And Gender Identity

International Best Practice Guide To Equality On Sexual Orientation And Gender Identity
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Each country that has made reforms has done so at its own pace. This guide is not intended to provide an exhaustive list of countries that have reformed law and policy to address inequalities on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression and sex characteristics. Instead, it highlights promising progress from some countries in early or interim stages of introducing measures which safeguard sexual and gender minorities from harm.

Addressing inequality is important for many reasons and new data shows that inclusion of sexual and gender minorities is a major factor that fuels growth in the most innovative cities1. This is important to consider as cities play a leading role in global innovation and are responsible for more than 80% of global GDP. Economic trends have strengthened states’ resolve to address inequalities as evidence suggests that sexual and gender minorities are highly vulnerable to poverty2 most likely because they have missed out on opportunities to build human and social capital, capabilities and productive assets3.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly in 2015 requires member states to demonstrate how they are reducing inequality by empowering and promoting social, economic and political inclusion of all, irrespective of age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion, economic or other status, which includes sexual orientation, gender identity or expression and sex characteristics. Former Secretary General Ban Ki Moon asserted that the aspiration is to ‘leave no one behind’, and that achieving SDGs will only be realised if member states reach all people, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.4

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights and that everyone is entitled to equal protection under the law. Regional human rights charters have empowered states to promote and protect the rights of sexual and gender minorities. In 2014, the African Commission stressed that the African Charter on Human and People’s Right prohibits discrimination on any status and strongly urged member states to end violence by “enacting and effectively applying appropriate laws prohibiting and punishing all forms of violence including those targeting persons on the basis of their imputed or real sexual orientation or gender identities.”5 The General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) also adopted a resolution in 2014, which condemns all forms of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and urged OAS member states to adopt public policies to further eliminate discrimination.6

Guidelines on integrating sexual orientation, gender identity or expression and sex characteristics into the work of National Human Rights Institutions in Asia Pacific provide many examples of progress in the region and focus on “mainstream efforts that an NHRI can undertake as part of a ‘business as usual’ approach to LGBTI-inclusion.”7 The guidelines stress that mainstreaming efforts should “complement but…not replace the need for targeted, specialised LGBTI policies and programmes, including affirmative action or special measures.”8

The Commonwealth Charter provides a framework for addressing discrimination as it affirms core Commonwealth principles of consensus and common action, mutual respect, inclusiveness, transparency, accountability, legitimacy, and responsiveness. The Charter also calls for prohibiting “discrimination on any grounds as the foundations of peaceful, just and stable societies.”9 The Commonwealth has demonstrated support for building on progress that member states have made in law and policy by sharing technical expertise and good practice and facilitating sensitive dialogue.10

This guide shows how a variety states have implemented these charters through introducing laws and policies which promote and protect the equality of all citizens. It is intended to offer tools and ideas which can support states considering how to ensure equality for sexual and gender minorities. As there is no one way to ensure equality, this guide explores different countries that have initiated different solutions suitable to their national contexts.

  1. Open For Business (2018), Strengthening the economic case for LGBT+ inclusion.
  2. Badgett M. V. Lee, “The Economic Cost of Stigmas and the Exclusion of LGBT People: A Case Study of India” (Washington, DC: World Bank. 2014).
  3. Badgett, M. V. Lee and Crehan, P. R. 2016. Investing in a research revolution for LGBTI inclusion. Washington, D.C.: World Bank Group.
  4. Ref:
  8. ibid
  10. Brooks L. and Daly F. A Commonwealth Toolkit for Policy Progress on LGBT Rights. Royal Commonwealth Society, Kaleidoscope Trust, The Commonwealth Equality Network. April 2016.