The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the inequalities across the world. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, and queer (LGBTIQ+) people who are already experiencing violence and discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity, are amongst those most affected by COVID-19. In the wake of the pandemic, they have been subject to additional stigmatization, discrimination, hate speech and attacks. In some countries, emergency powers adopted to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic are intentionally or unintentionally discriminating against LGBTIQ+ people. Given overloaded health systems, the treatment of LGBTIQ+ people may be interrupted or deprioritized. And the pandemic is having a devastating effect on the mental health and wellbeing of LGBTIQ+ people, particularly young people.

Yet in the face of the pandemic, LGBTIQ+ communities are organising to resist, support, and heal. They are offering peer support and community-led organisations are working with the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS to ensure the provision of HIV services for LGBTIQ+ people. Human rights defenders and National Human Rights Institutions are raising their voices on the impact of COVID-19 measures on LGBTIQ+ people.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is working with partners in 72 countries to support LGBTIQ+ people during the pandemic and beyond. That includes everything from training 2,900 human rights defenders on LGBTIQ+ issues in the Caribbean; working with LGBTIQ+ youth organisations in India and Thailand through the Youth Co:Lab programme on social entrepreneurship; supporting the Eurasian Key Populations Health Network to measure the impacts of COVID-19 on trans health; or working through the UNDP-Global Fund partnership in Zimbabwe to ensure the continuation of vital HIV and health services and psycho-social support for LGBTIQ+ people, including through the use of digital technologies.

UNDP is taking a human rights-based approach to COVID-19 that puts people at the very centre of the response. It is based on the principles of participation and inclusion; accountability and the rule of law; as well as non-discrimination and equality. As the UN Secretary-General has said, “In building forward together, we have a unique and historic opportunity to forge a world where every person is afforded dignity; where every society can withstand crises; where everyone’s future is built upon a foundation of inalienable rights”. On the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT), UNDP stands with LGBTIQ+ people and partners to resist injustice, support community engagement, and help transform healing into empowerment.

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