International experts call on protection of trans and gender diverse children and adolescents

In light of the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia on 17 May, a group of United Nations and international human rights experts urged States and other stakeholders to protect trans and gender diverse children and adolescents from discrimination, exclusion, violence and stigma and to foster supportive family environments for trans and gender diverse people.

The experts recognize the struggles and difficulties which most trans and gender variant children and adolescents face in their lives including here:

  • Hostile environments which force them to drop out of schools or leave their families at very early ages;
  • Vulnerability to homelessness, informal job markets, criminalized economies, police profiling leading to a cycle of poverty and marginalization and further discrimination and violence as a life-long predicament;
  • Vulnerability to mental health problems, including feelings of isolation and depression which can lead to self-harm and suicide;
  • Existence of laws or by-laws criminalizing gender expression including through offences of “cross-dressing” or “imitating the opposite sex” and other such discriminatory regulations which have an impact on the liberty and security of these young people and tend to foster a climate where hate speech, violence and discrimination are condoned and perpetrated with impunity;
  • Criminalization and pervasive discrimination leading to denial of health care, lack of safe gender affirming procedures, and to lack of access to information and related services. Pathologizing has been one of the root causes behind the human rights violations against trans and gender diverse children and adolescents;
  • In most countries, transgender people are refused legal recognition of their self-defined gender, which can lead to further human rights violations in educatin, employment, healthcare and beyond. Many states that do permit the modification of gender markers on identity documents impose abusive requirements, such as forced or otherwise involuntary surgery, sterilization, mental health diagnosis, psychiatric interventions or other coercive medical procedures; Many of these practices violate the physical and mental integrity of individuals and related rights, amounting to ill-treatment or torture and infringing their inherent dignity;
  • Despite widespread abuses and lack of guarantee for their human rights in several settings, young trans and gender diverse people frequently lack access to remedy for the violation of their rights.

Due to the above practices and conditions the experts urge States: 

  • To adopt a legal and policy framework, with comprehensive implementation measures;
  • To respect the principles of equality and non-discrimination, right to life, survival and development, best interests of the child and respect for the child’s views; Particular role in this aspect play the families which should create safe and loving environments for their trans and gender diverse children and adolescents;
  • To create safe and affirming spaces where these young people can be directly supported to help them address the prejudice and discrimination they may face;
  • To decriminalize and depathologize trans and gender diverse identities and expressions, including for young transgender people, to prohibit “conversion therapies” and refrain from adopting new criminalizing laws and pathologizing medical classifications, including in the context of the upcoming review of the international Classification of Diseases;
  • To provide equal access to health care and access to gender affirming treatment to those who seek it;
  • To facilitate quick, transparent and accessible legal gender recognition, and without abusive conditions, guaranteeing human rights for all persons, respectful of free/informed choice and bodily autonomy. Coercive medical interventions/procedures should, therefore, never be employed. Regardless of their legal gender markers, young trans and gender diverse people should be allowed to use their own names and pronouns, and to dress according to their self-defined gender identity and expression;
  • Due to widespread violence it is critical that States investigate violations, hold those responsible to be accountable, and protect the rights of victims, including in regard to remedy, redress and compensation, effectively;
  • To combat transphobia, to embrace human diversity and to undertake holistic implementation measures, including responsive laws, policies and practices. A universal rights-based analysis of gender should address social constructions, practices and customs that tend to reinforce gender stereotypes;
  • States are asked to encourage faith based organizations not to send negative messaging on trans and gender diverse persons;
  • To repeal legislation and related measures that criminalize gender expression and/or which affect trans and gender diverse people negatively, and provide accessible and non-discriminatory legal gender recognition procedures without abusive pre-conditions, including for young transgender people;
  • To design and implement inclusive measures against violence and discrimination, complemented by pro-active promotion of public awareness, understanding acceptance and respect for gender diversity worldwide.

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