Progress towards giving lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people legal equality has been overshadowed by “brutal” and “grotesque” homophobic and transphobic violence which often goes unreported and unpunished, according to the United Nations.

Hundreds of people have been killed and thousands injured in recent years, in violence that included knife attacks, anal rape and genital mutilation, as well as stoning and dismemberment, U.N. human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said in a report.

“Violence motivated by homophobia and transphobia is often particularly brutal, and in some instances characterized by levels of cruelty exceeding that of other hate crimes,” Hussein said in the report.

More than 1,700 transgender people were murdered in 62 countries between 2008 and 2014, equivalent to a killing every two days, according to The Trans Murder Monitoring project, which is coordinated by LGBT rights group Transgender Europe.

Yet the lack of effective systems for recording and reporting hate crimes against LGBT people masks the true extent of such violence, Hussein said.

Victims are often reluctant to report violence for fear of extortion or being outed, while police action is often ineffective and guided by stereotypes and prejudices, he said.

“Grotesque homicides (are) perpetrated with broad impunity, allegedly at times with the complicity of investigative authorities,” said the report, issued on Monday.

Hussein said U.N. agencies continued to express alarm at hate-motivated killings of LGBT people worldwide and patterns of violence including the murder of transsexual women in Uruguay and black lesbian women in South Africa.

In an assault in Chile, a gay man was beaten and killed by neo-Nazis, who burned him with cigarettes and carved swastikas into his body, the report said.

Pervasive Violence

Several countries have extended legal rights to LGBT people in recent years, Hussein said in what is only the second official U.N. report on LGBT issues and the first since 2011.

Mozambique, Palau and Sao Tome and Principe have decriminalised homosexuality, while lawmakers in Cuba, Fiji and Malta enacted laws prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Twelve countries, including France and Brazil, introduced same-sex marriage or civil unions while Argentina, Denmark and Malta passed laws allowing transgender people to change gender legally without undergoing sterilisation and divorce.

Many countries require surgery, sterilisation and a mental illness diagnosis before a person can change legal gender.

“While some progress has been made since the first study in 2011, the overall picture remains one of continuing, pervasive, violent abuse, harassment and discrimination affecting LGBT and intersex persons in all regions,” Hussein said.

The report called for the implementation of anti-LGBT hate crimes laws, decriminalisation of consensual same-sex activity, legal protection for same-sex couples and their children and a ban on so-called “conversion therapies”, which are intended to “cure” homosexual attraction.

This article is published in collaboration with the Thomson Reuters Foundation trust.org. Publication does not imply endorsement of views by the World Economic Forum.

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Author: Kieran Guilbert is a London-based reporter covering breaking news.

Image: A man holds a flag as he takes part in an annual Gay Pride Parade in Toronto June 28, 2009. REUTERS/Mark Blinch.