November 14, 2019 / 11:07 PM / a month ago

LGBT+ delegates say sidelined at 'inclusive' global sexual health summit

NAIROBI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A global summit on sexual and reproductive health hailed by organisers as being an inclusive event failed to adequately hear the voices of sexual minorities, some LGBT+ delegates said as the three-day event ended on Thursday.

Discussions at the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) ranged from how to end maternal deaths and eliminate gender based violence to improving sexual and reproductive health care for marginalised communities.

But LGBT+ participants said they were disappointed that no sessions specifically addressed sexual minorities and there was little mention of their sexual health challenges, particularly in countries where gay sex is illegal.

Organised by the Danish and Kenyan governments and the United Nations, the event in Nairobi comprised more than 9,500 participants including heads of states, ministers, donors and financial institutions from 173 nations.

“There has been mention of LGBTQI in certain spaces, but that’s not enough,” said Simone Tuni from the Rainbow Pride Foundation in Fiji. “Gender has grown. We have moved on from that time when people thought gender is just women and girls,”

“But in this conference all I’ve been hearing is girls and women. It’s disappointing, as it’s a UN conference and the UN is always talking about ‘leaving no one behind’,” Tuni added.

Tuni said while dozens of LGBT+ participants from all over the world attended many felt their voices were not heard, adding that having a transgender woman on a panel for example could have had a significant impact.

NOT INCLUSIVE?

Conference organisers denied any lack of inclusiveness.

“I am sorry if some people within the LGBT community have felt excluded,” said IB Petersen, Denmark’s special envoy for the ICPD, adding that a session was arranged for LGBT+ delegates to raise concerns.

“It doesn’t have to be in the title of a session. It’s very relevant to raise LGBT issues in all the sessions and I know that they have done that.”

Same-sex relations are illegal in almost 70 countries globally, according to the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA), with punishments as extreme as life imprisonment or death.

Gay rights groups say such laws promote homophobia and are used to persecute and discriminate against sexual minorities who face workplace, housing and healthcare prejudice.

A recent study found that thousands of gay men in Africa are likely dying from HIV-related illnesses every year due to anti-LGBT+ laws which reduce their chances of being tested and treated.

LGBT+ delegates said while ending harmful practices such as child marriage and female genital mutilation were discussed, there was little mention of practices such as forced surgeries on intersex people or conversion therapy.

They noted while sessions on gender based violence focused on violence against women, there were no attempts to address attacks on LGBT+ people, especially trans women.

Martin Karadzhov, chair of ILGA World’s Youth Steering Committee, said the lack of inclusion of LGBT+ voices would slow progress on achieving global goals such as ending gender-based violence.

“Us being excluded from those conversations is us letting a whole global movement down,” said Karadzhov.

The UNFPA and Kenyan government have come under fire from Christian groups claiming hosting the event was promoting abortion and homosexuality in the east African nation where same sex relations are punishable by up to 14 years’ imprisonment.

Reporting by Nita Bhalla @nitabhalla, Editing by Chris Michaud. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org

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