Health, sexual orientation and human rights

gay rights

Project Director: Jed Horner

There is compelling international and local evidence that sexual minorities, including LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex) people, are subject to high levels of discrimination and experience poorer outcomes across a range of key health and wellbeing indicators, comprising pervasive inequities in health for these groups. However, in the policy arena, sexual orientation is rarely considered a social determinant of health, alongside existing axes of difference such as ‘race’, nativity status, socio-economic status and gender. For instance, in 2008, when the WHO Commission on the Social Determinants of Health released their seminal report titled ‘Closing the Gap in a Generation’, not one mention of sexual orientation, or the experiences of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or intersex people, was made. This is in spite of now well-documented cases of hate-crime in countries such as South Africa, including the so-called ‘corrective rape’ of lesbian and bisexual women. In the Australian context too, there has been a marked reticence to refer to sexual orientation as a social determinant of health in both the academic literature and in the policy arena. This represents an act of omission that comes at the cost of LGBTI peoples health and wellbeing and urgently needs to be rectified.

Drawing on developments in international human rights jurisprudence concerning the right to health, and informed by empirical research, this project will sharpen the focus on sexual orientation as a social determinant of health, to inform policy-making, research, as well as service provision in the Australian context. This will occur through a combination of original research, capacity building, dissemination of existing information, as well as translational work, including submission writing.