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Global panel looks at impact of COVID-19 on LGBTQI people
by Carrie Maxwell, Windy City Times

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Following the release of OutRight Action International's report "Vulnerability Amplified: The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on LGBTIQ People," the United Nations ( UN ) LGBTI Core Group hosted a virtual panel "The Impact of COVID-19 on LGBTIQ People" on May 18.

The panel was one of the ways the UN marked this year's 2020 International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Intersexphobia and Transphobia ( IDAHOBIT ), which actually took place May 17.

OutRight Action International Executive Director Jessica Stern moderated the event. Panelists included UN Independent Expert on Protection Against Violence and Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Victor Madrigal-Borloz; Colours Cayman founder/President Billie Bryan; and Mawjoudin We Exist for Equality Secretary General Khawla Bouaziz.

UN LGBTI Core Group co-chairs—Netherland's Permanent Representative to the UN Karel van Oosteroml and Argentina's Charges D'Affaires to the UN Alejandro Verdier—welcomed Iceland and Nepal as new core group members this year.

van Oosterom said that he hopes South Africa will rejoin as a member of the core group and noted that, when asked by the UN LGBTI Core Group, the UN General Assembly President Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, of Nigeria, would not say that "human rights are LGBTI rights and LGBTI rights are human rights."

Verdier said he hopes more countries from Africa and Asia will join the core group in the coming months/years. He noted that OutRight's report found that emergencies like COVID-19 accelerate vulnerabilities that exist among LGBTQ people and other marginalized communities worldwide.

Nepal's Permanent Representative to the UN, Amrit Bahadur Rai, noted that his country's constitution has sexual orientation and gender identity protections in its constitution. He said that it is vital to make sure that LGBTQ people get equal access to healthcare and are not discriminated against, especially during this pandemic, because "no one is safe until everyone is safe."

Iceland's Permanent Representative to the UN, Jorundur Valtysson, spoke about his country's continued work on advancing LGBTQ equality.

Stern spoke about the many LGBTQ people who are now being forced to shelter-in-place with anti-LGBTQ family members, emphasizing the physical and emotional toll these arrangements have on their well-being—and how many of them are going back into the closet for their own safety.

Madrigal-Borloz said the message that is being sent to the UN General assembly is that "there is no way to understand the integral impact of this pandemic if you erase LGBTQ persons and their lived realities from that picture. … This pandemic is actively being used to persecute and attack LGBTQ people, attempt to withdraw their rights and delay the incoming of rights they were due because of judicial and legislative means or public policy."

Byran said that people in the Cayman Islands pretend that LGBTQ people do not exist so the focus of her organization is to promote visibility in a safe manner. She added that all the safe spaces they created have been lost due to COVID-19 and this puts LGBTQ people in unsafe homes at risk for harm. Bryan spoke about the new virtual initiative Social Circles that Colours Cayman will be rolling out via Zoom calls and various social media platforms.

Bouaziz, whose country criminalizes LGBTQ people's actions, spoke about the economic impact COVID-19 has had on the LGBTQ community because many of them held jobs that are no longer in operation.

Both Bryan and Bouaziz emphasized that their organizations need funds to help LGBTQ people in their countries through this pandemic and into the future.

Other speakers included Canada's Deputy Permanent Representative Richard Arbeiter; Costa Rica's Presidential Commissioner for LGBTI Population Affairs Luis Salazar; and United States Acting Economic and Social Council Representative Courtney Nemroff.

Following the Q&A session, Spain Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN Maria Bassols Delgado and Uruguay Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN Luis Homero Bermudez Alvarez closed the event.

The full panel can be viewed here

To read UN LGBTI Core Group's 2020 IDAHOBIT statement and OutRight Action International's report visit and .

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