LGBTI Q&A

7 April 2015, 15:24 UTC | New Zealand
Supporters take part in Auckland’s Pride Parade. 16 February 2013, New Zealand. © Amnesty International

What does LGBTI mean?

LGBTI stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex. We tend to use this acronym even though we know that not everyone defines their sexual identity in these terms.

What’s the difference between Transgender and Intersex?

In most countries children are assigned a sex at birth - male or female. This appears on official documents such as passports and ID cards.

However a transgender person’s own sense of gender differs from the sex they were assigned. For instance a child is born and identified as female, yet the child identifies as male. Some transgender people wish to change their name and gender on official documents. Some seek surgical, hormonal or other treatments to modify their body in line with the gender they identify with. 

Intersex people have genital, chromosomal or hormonal characteristics that do not allow an individual to be clearly identified as male or female. Intersexuality is not always diagnosed as such - a doctor may say a child has abnormally large, small or ambiguous genitalia. Very young children with genitalia like this often undergo ‘corrective’ surgery or other procedures, after which they are assigned a gender.

Transgender and intersex are not mutually exclusive categories. Nor are transgender or intersex people necessarily lesbian, gay, bisexual or straight.

Why does Amnesty International campaign for LGBTI rights?

In countries all around the world people face discrimination, violence and harassment because of their real or perceived gender identity or sexual orientation. 

We campaign on behalf of all individuals who have their human rights violated, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Are same sex relationships ever criminalised?

Yes. In 78 countries around the world, same-sex sexual activity is illegal. In ten countries, such acts are punishable by death.

Are LGBTI rights progressing?

Globally, support for LGBTI rights is increasing, but the situation for LGBTI people varies enormously around the world. Advancements in some countries includes marriage equality and legal gender recognition for transgender people. But in some countries, new laws being introduced have negative effects on LGBTI people. 

What other problems do LGBTI people face?

LGBTI individuals can be harassed, threatened or killed because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. LGBTI people often experience discrimination in family law (marriage and adoption) or are denied access to housing, healthcare, education and employment.

Where does Amnesty International stand?

We oppose laws that criminalise same-sex acts. These laws violate international human rights law even if they are not enforced. All human rights belong to all human beings, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation.

LGBTI rights are not ‘special rights’. They are the same rights that everyone else is entitled to. Denial of these rights based on real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity is a violation of human rights law.

What is Amnesty International doing about this?

Amnesty International New Zealand picks up cases of individuals at risk and campaigns on their behalf.

Most recently we campaigned on behalf of Ihar Tsikhanyuk, who was beaten and abused by police officers in Belarus for being gay. When Ihar complained about this, the authorities told him there wasn't enough evidence to investigate.

We also act on broader issues such as legislation that restricts or violates the rights of LGBTI people. For example we took urgent action to halt amendments to Gambia’s Criminal Code which, if passed, would introduce ‘aggravated homosexuality’ as a criminal offence.

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