There is no separate set of rights for LGBTI individuals. LGBTI individuals should be able to enjoy all the human rights with no discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. Nevertheless, in many societies LGBTI persons are often denied human rights due to discriminatory legislation and/or societal practice.
Important International and Regional Documents:
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights:
Article 2 (1): “Each State Party to the present Covenant undertakes to respect and to ensure to all individuals within its territory and subject to its jurisdiction the rights recognized in the present Covenant, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.”
Article 26: “All persons are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to the equal protection of the law. In this respect, the law shall prohibit any discrimination and guarantee to all persons equal and effective protection against discrimination on any ground such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.”
The above articles are important with regards to Human Rights and LGBTI persons. In Toonen vs. Australia, the Human Rights Committee held that the references to “sex” in Articles 2(1) and 26 of the ICCPR should include sexual orientation.
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
Since April 1993 the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has recognised that LGBTI persons qualify as members of a “particular social group” for the purposes of the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees.
In December 2000, the Council adopted a (binding) general Framework Directive on equal treatment in employment prohibiting direct and indirect discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief, age, disability or sexual orientation. The Framework Directive is binding upon the current member states, while the accession states are required to have completed national implementation of the Directive before joining the EU.
The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union:
Article 21(1) states that: “Any discrimination based on any ground such as sex, race, colour, ethnic or social origin, genetic features, language, religion or belief, political or other opinion, membership of a national minority, property, birth, disability, age or sexual orientation shall be prohibited”.
With regards to the case of Cyprus, discrimination against LGBTI persons curtails an array of rights including, but definitely not limited to:
The Right to a Freedom of Expression:
Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights provides that:
- Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference.
- 2. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.
The right to a Freedom of Association:
Article 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights provides that: Everyone shall have the right to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and join trade unions for the protection of his interests.
It can be argued that the rights to free expression and free association are curtailed in Cyprus because LGBTI persons may not enjoy them fully due to the homophobic climate which prevails.
The right to marry:
Despite the fact that in international human rights law there is no clear reference to the right to marry for same-sex couples, the principles of equality and non-discrimination constitute a strong ground for the argumentation that the right to marry and have a family applies to same sex couples.
The right to form a family is denied by the Government of Cyprus as it does not recognise same sex families. Benefits granted to heterosexual couples including welfare, insurance and employment benefits can therefore not be accessed by LGBTI couple.
The right to physical and mental health is curtailed due to the lack of training given to healthcare professionals on the issue of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.