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Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

International human rights law protects individuals from discrimination and violence on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Yet lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals around the world suffer a systematic violation of their rights.

Death penalty in five countries

In more than 70 countries, same-sex sexual relationships are criminalized. In five of these countries, the penalty is death. LGBT activists face severe restrictions on their freedoms of speech and peaceful assembly, often by laws intended to prevent advocacy about LGBT human rights.

Hate crimes unpunished

Yet criminal laws are not the only problem. Widespread ostracism and stigmatisation mean that LGBT individuals are frequently denied basic services, including education and health care. Hate crimes, including sexual assaults and murder, go unprosecuted and unpunished.The ICJ works on sexual orientation and gender identity because of the huge gulf between the protections afforded by international law and the reality of people’s lives.Our aim is to use international human rights law to end the violence and discrimination faced by LGBT individuals. We do this in several different ways.

ICJ’s approach

  • First, we work to encourage the use of international human rights law by domestic activists and courts. We participate in litigation through amicus briefs or expert opinions, we conduct trainings and workshops, and we research and write legal tools for use by practitioners.
  • Second, we work to make the international human rights system more accountable and responsive to violations experienced by LGBT individuals. We do this through advocacy before regional human rights systems and United Nations treaty bodies as well as at the Human Rights Council and through assisting domestic activists to use the international enforcement mechanisms.


Refugee Status Claims Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity: ICJ Practitioners’ Guide n° 11