The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated stigma and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Sunday (17 May).
While negative perceptions and treatment of LGBT people “remain a stark reality” even prior to the virus outbreak, Ms Bachelet said that “it is becoming clear that the COVID-19 pandemic has, in many places, made this situation worse”.
“LGBTI people are often exposed to additional stigma, discrimination and violence, including when seeking medical services – and perhaps saddest of all, within their own families during lock-downs.
“They are also in some places being treated as scapegoats for the spread of the virus,” she added.
The escalating discriminatory attitudes against LGBT people during the pandemic, Ms Bachelet observed, is a sign that the “considerable progress” made in LGBT rights — from the decriminalisation of same-sex relations to marriage equality — is not “universal”.
Ms Bachelet, however, is optimistic that the situation is not “necessarily irreversible”.
“I urge everyone to stand up against hate, and to break the silence surrounding the discrimination and violence suffered by LGBTI people.
“Let us counter the homophobic, transphobic and biphobic attitudes and narratives that have such a devastating impact on the lives of so many human beings worldwide,” she urged.
Ms Bachelet’s remarks were made in commemoration of the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, which falls on 17 May annually.
This year’s IDAHOBIT will be marked by online conferences and the live streaming of events — from concerts to shared religious and/or spiritual activities — in lieu of marches and other events that typically attract large crowds.
Sayoni — a Singapore-based organisation that empowers lesbian, bisexual and transgender women — on Saturday (16 May) organised a Zoom webinar in which participants can discuss ways to better cope with hostile environments at home during the pandemic.
A Malaysian LGBT network comprising Justice for Sisters, PELANGI Campaign, People Like Us Hang Out! (PLUHO) and Queer Lapis is organising a two-hour-long online session today for LGBT people to share experiences in conjunction with IDAHOBIT’s theme of “Breaking The Silence” this year.
“For so long we have been told to be quiet, not to rock the boat, not to express ourselves. As a result, so many of our experiences and stories have been silenced, suppressed and ignored, or even used against us.
“In keeping with this year’s IDAHOBIT theme “Breaking The Silence”, we call on all of us to break our silence and help others do the same too,” their statement read.
Those keen on joining the session can register here. The session begins at 3pm.
Next week, Indonesia-based GAYa Nusantara Foundation, in collaboration with Coalition for Sexual and Bodily Rights in Muslim Societies (CSBR) and the Global Interfaith Network (GIN), will be holding a webinar on progressive interpretations of gender diversity and sexualities on Monday (18 May).
Those keen on participating in the Zoom webinar can sign up here.
On 23 May, Sayoni will be organising a self-care workshop that utilises art-making techniques in the process.
The workshop, which will be held via Zoom from 3pm to 4.30pm, will be facilitated by Aqilah Faizall, a postgraduate student who is currently pursuing her Masters in Art Therapy at the LASALLE College of the Arts.
Sayoni in its Facebook post yesterday said that the workshop aims to “nurture a communal virtual space to care for ourselves through these uncertain, trying times, through journaling and art-making”.
Prior knowledge of art is not a prerequisite for the workshop, the organisation added.
Persons interested in participating in the workshop may sign up here.