Each year on May 17th, we commemorate the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia (IDAHOT). This date marks the day in 1990 when the World Health Organization (WHO) removed homosexuality from the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) and, it is also a reminder of our continuing fight for equality and inclusion of LGBTI people worldwide. This year, the international LGBTI movement has elected the theme “Breaking the Silence”.

Indeed, breaking the silence so as not to leave LGBTI people behind amid the COVID-19 pandemic is essential. This health crisis has not only tested the health and social protection systems of the States, but it also demands the adoption of social and economic responses that are environmentally sustainable, imperatives to gender equality, including LGBTI people, to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda.

In the Dominican Republic, this pandemic has a considerable impact on the socio-economic well-being of LGBTI people. 42.7% of gay men and trans women receive a monthly income of less than 6,000[1] Dominican pesos (105 USD). This low income generates a serious situation considering that the basic basket of food goods for the first quintile of income, the poorest people in the country, has a cost of 14,476.91 Dominican pesos (254 USD) as of March 2020.

The lack of a regulatory framework that recognizes the gender identity of trans people, families made up of same-sex couples, and explicit protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, and sexual characteristics, continues to represent a great challenge in many countries, including the Dominican Republic. Furthermore, this legal void inhibits the inclusion in the responses of social protection, health care, education, and justice without discrimination and protection against domestic and gender violence of the LGBTI people.

However, this crisis has also demonstrated the strength of Dominican LGBTI organizations, which are providing services, making the needs of this population visible, and advocating for inclusive public policies. In the words of Victor Madrigal-Borloz[2], the Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity at the United Nations:

“This moment demands the type of conviction and discipline that I know the LGTB movement(s) can deploy because I have seen them deployed time and time again. I also believe that our strength and tenacity, and our capacity for kindness and compassion will be among our unique contributions to how this great adversity will be met.”

UNDP in the Dominican Republic has implemented multiple strategies to address the needs and protect the rights of people living under the pressure of the pandemic, consistent with the United Nations framework for the immediate socio-economic response to COVID-19, paying special attention to the people who are at greater risk of being left behind such as LGBTI people. Some of these actions include:

· Approached, dialogued, and trained public institutions for the inclusion of LGBTI people in their responses to the crisis.

· Conducted a survey of LGBTI NGOs aiming to know and get informed about the demands of the key populations these organizations serve.

· Released a Directory on mental health and other services for the LGBTI population during COVID-19.

· Coordinate the distribution of personal protective equipment (EPP) and food kits to LGBTI people in vulnerable conditions.

· Conduct a Household Survey on the socio-economic impact of COVID-19 in the Dominican Republic as a monitoring tool in real-time. This initiative is supported by the Dominican government to improve the designing of response interventions to the pandemic, and the study identifies the impact on LGBTI people.

Along with the immediate actions currently carried out by civil society, the State, UNDP, and other sectors, it is imperative to work on a safe and inclusive plan of socio-economic recovery, as the lifting of the social distancing measures is inevitable sooner or later. All the future efforts to be implemented must not leave the LGBTI people behind because when we put the LGBTI people at the center of the policymaking process, we ensure better results for all the Dominican society and the world.

[1] Segunda encuesta de vigilancia de comportamiento con vinculación serológica en poblaciones claves: Gais, Trans y Hombres que tienen Sexo con Hombres (GTH), Trabajadoras Sexuales (TRSX), Usuarios de Drogas (UD). Santo Domingo: CONAVIHSIDA, 2014. Page 57.

[2] https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/SexualOrientation/IE_SOGI_LGBT_community.docx

Por: Cristhian Manuel Jiménez and Jean Sano Santana.

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