By Daniela Raymond
Dr. Timothy Affonso held a seminar over zoom to highlight the disparities between COVID-19 measures and the LGBT community, Wednesday, March 9.
Affonso is an experienced legal scholar and attorney, and currently serves as the deputy dean of student matters at the University of West Indies in Trinidad. He is also an associate tutor at the University of Wooding Law School in constitutional law and completed his master’s in law and public and human rights at London University College.
The colloquy discussed how the pandemic has affected the LGBT community and how it faces employment deficits, violence, housing discrimination and unequal health care, resulting from stereotypes and group perceptions that are heavily rooted in heterosexual norms.
“This health crisis has worsened treatment by state actors of persons within the LGBT community, and enabled these state actors to miscarry COVID-19 measures,” Dr. Jonathan Slater, director of the Institute for Ethics in Public Life, said.
The laws and policies states used to control COVID-19 were also used by many countries to discriminate against minority groups.
At the international human rights level, there have been treaties developed that address specific disparities within groups, but there has not been one in progress dealing with the LGBT community. This allows for a “cookie-cutter” tactic to be used, where pieces from different treaties are used that were never meant to deal with the rights and protection of this particular group.
Affonso mentioned multiple different cases where the LGBT community was marginalized during the pandemic. In Uganda, Africa, police officers tried to implement quarantine issued by the government and utilized their power to target the homeless LGBT community. The United Nations said “because of the extent of the allegations they asked Uganda to limit their use of these public measures to promote only public health, and not to target specific groups.”
In the Philippines, where there is an informal mechanism for regional and domestic governance they humiliated the LGBT community in enforcing curfews. Panama imposed a gender-based quarantine, meaning that on particular days men went out and on opposite days women were able to leave their homes, heavily targeting the transgender, intersex and non-binary community. They were also given ID cards that identified their gender that they could be arrested for if outside on the day not designated to them. In Poland, their local council implemented LBGT safe zones that were used for people not a part of the community, because they saw a link between the LGBT community and COVID-19.
“This shows the connections between culture, social perceptions of the group and policy and implementation of that policy,” Dr.Affonso said.
In some countries, community members were able to vocalize the wrongdoings of the law and brought awareness to the issue, but were not able to undo these laws. Research was done by non-profit organizations that are trying to bring information to the public about these disparities because more often these marginalized groups are left voiceless in their suffering. Unfortunately the research that organizationzations have obtained have not benefited the community from any changed policies during COVID-19.
After two years in the pandemic, many of these measures have been rescinded. The issue at hand is the lack of accountability taken by policy makers to take into account “the unique threat faced or challenges by these groups and the development of the policy.”