SOGI Mandate Safeguarded in Face of Hostility

Joint Civil Society Press Statement
21 November 2016 (New York) — The United Nations mandate of the Independent Expert on sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) has been safeguarded despite hostile contestation at the 71st Session of the 3rd Committee of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York City.
LGBTIQ activists and organizations around the world quickly mobilized to voice their concerns on the implications of the hostile resolution to national governments as well as at the United Nations headquarters in New York. A joint statement endorsed by 850 organizations from 157 countries around the world, highlighted the need for states to respect the authority of the Human Rights Council and to vote in favour of upholding the SOGI Independent Expert mandate.
“A lot can be accomplished when forces join hands. We are encouraged by this voting result and in the confirmation that States believe in the mechanisms of the Human Rights Council. It is vital that the integrity of the Human Rights Council remains intact and is not further undermined in the Third Committee,” stated Jessica Stern, Executive Director, OutRight Action International, the only US based LGBTIQ organization with consultative status at the United Nations.
The SOGI Independent Expert position on the “Protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation, and gender identity (SOGI),” was mandated by the passing of a historic resolution A/HRC/RES/32/2 on June 30 of this year, and is held by Vitit Muntarbhorn, a human rights expert from Thailand. A campaign of 628 nongovernmental organizations from 151 countries advocated for the adoption of the resolution and for the establishment of the position.
In early November, Botswana, on behalf of the African Group, presented a hostile resolution on the Human Rights Council Annual Report, specifically targeting the SOGI Independent Expert Mandate. The resolution contested the legality of the creation of the mandate, essentially arguing that SOGI are not universally recognized as human rights and are not codified in international law. The resolution called for an indefinite postponement of the mandate until consensus could be reached on the definition of SOGI and the legal basis to which the mandate was created, the African Group statement read,
“We are alarmed that the Council is delving into matters which fall essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of States counter to the commitment in the United Nations Charter to respect the sovereignty of States and the principle of non-intervention. More importantly, it arises owing to the ominous usage of the two notions: sexual orientation and gender identity. We wish to state that those two notions are not and should not be linked to existing international human rights instruments.”
In response to the African Group resolution, submitted by Botswana, Monica Tabengwa, Botswana human rights activist and director of Pan Africa ILGA commented,
“We are deeply disappointed that Botswana led this fallacious move by the Africa Group to remove gains at the HRC to include SOGI protections within the existing human rights framework. Let us remind everyone that the SOGI mandate is about real people and their right to secure lives, to be free of violence and discrimination and that these lives can’t be postponed or deferred indefinitely. We deserve more from our governments”
The SOGI Independent Expert was created after adoption of a resolution in the Human Rights Council in June 2016, initiated by seven Latin American countries, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico and Uruguay. They, plus El Salvador (LAC 8), countered the African Group’s attempt to postpone the mandate by introducing an amendment to the resolution deleting the hostile paragraph.
An explanatory note provided by the eight Latin American countries on their submitted amendment in support of preserving the SOGI mandate and the integrity of the HRC reads,
“The seriousness of the consequences (…) lies in the fact that never before has a country or group of countries attempted to challenge a special procedures mandate by the Human Rights Council with an appointed and fully functioning mandate holder. (…) If the General Assembly reopens the Council’s annual report and use a selective approach to which resolution it seeks to block or defer indefinitely it would fundamentally undermine the authority granted to the Council by the General Assembly, thus having far reaching implications well beyond the specific resolution under consideration.”
While all 193 countries in the UN General Assembly had the right to vote, only 178 exercised their vote, resulting in the passing of the LAC 8 amendment, leading to the failure of the hostile resolution and dissipation of the immediate threat against the establishment of the SOGI Independent Expert. In total, 84 countries voted in favor of the LAC 8 amendment, 77 voted against the amendment, and 17 countries abstained from voting.
LGBTIQ civil society in the Asia and the Pacific region have vocalized their support for the SOGI Independent Expert, hoping that a representative from the region would help progress protections for people of diverse sexual orientation and gender identity. In response to the voting, Ryan Silverio, Regional Coordinator for the ASEAN SOGIE Caucus said,
“Today we are reminded of the fundamental mission of the Council, and the UN’s commitment to promote human rights and equality for all. We are encouraged by the open dialogue with ASEAN member states in the lead up of the vote, and are particularly thankful to Thailand for showing leadership to protecting this mandate,”
The failure of the proposed hostile resolution is significant not only because it reinstates the authority of the Human Rights Council, but it also allows forward movement on the work of the SOGI Independent Expert- a crucial stride in the UN’s commitment towards protecting the universality of human rights, especially for vulnerable communities. It reinforces the notion that people cannot be left behind and states must protect all people from discrimination and violence based on their SOGI.
“The SOGI Independent Expert position is vital in bringing to light the horrific acts of violence and discrimination many people face because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. These abuses happen everywhere; no region or country is immune to them. Having concrete documentation showing the consequences of homophobia and transphobia on the lives of people and recommendations on how to address these challenges from an HRC Special Procedure mandate holder will help states take responsibility to protect LGBTQI persons. It will be much harder to ignore the facts,” commented Micah Grzywnowicz, trans activist and international advocacy advisor at RFSL, the Swedish Federation for LGBTQ Rights.
While the hostile resolution did not pass today, civil society has warned that future attempts to stop the progress of the SOGI Independent Expert are not out of the question.
The Expert will be tasked with assessing implementation of existing international human rights law, identifying best practices and gaps, raising awareness of violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, engaging in dialogue and consultation with States and other stakeholders, and facilitating provision of advisory services, technical assistance, capacity-building and cooperation to help address violence and discrimination on these grounds.
“As always, the fight continues to ensure that States don’t cherry pick which human rights to protect. We must continue to be vigilant and to mobilize to ensure that universality and non-discrimination triumphs at all levels. We must also ensure that we are working together to create change which will benefit all LGBTIQ people. Safeguarding human rights principles remains prime to peace and security for all people everywhere, anytime,” said Steve Letsike, Director of Access Chapter 2, a South African LGBTIQ human rights organization.

Statement by Secretary Kerry: Transgender Day of Remembrance

Repost from U.S. Department of State

On Transgender Day of Remembrance, the United States solemnly honors the memory of the many transgender individuals who lost their lives to senseless acts of violence.

Transgender persons around the world are targeted by rising levels of violence fueled by hatred and bigotry.  This is a global challenge and we all must do more to protect transgender persons on the basis of equality and dignity.

In the United States, our Constitution enshrines freedoms of peaceful assembly, speech and association, and it affirms that everyone has equal protection under the law.  Around the world human rights and fundamental freedoms are recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that every person is born free and equal in dignity and rights.  Every person includes transgender women, transgender men, and other individuals who face marginalization on account of their gender expression or gender identity.

Today we stand in solidarity with the incredible resilience and leadership of the transgender community in responding to stigma and marginalization.  Transgender persons deepen our diversity, broaden our communities, and strengthen the values we cherish.  When all persons reach their full human potential, free from fear, intimidation, and violence, nations become more just, secure and prosperous.

The United States remains committed to advance the human rights of all persons, including transgender persons.  On this Transgender Day of Remembrance, we reaffirm equality for all as part of our core constitutional principles and as a human rights priority of U.S. diplomacy.

U.S. State Department’s Recognition of Intersex Awareness Day

statedeptlogo-webPress Statement from John Kirby, Assistant Secretary and Department Spokesperson, Bureau of Public Affairs

On the occasion of Intersex Awareness Day, the United States stands in solidarity with intersex persons around the world.

We recognize that intersex persons face violence, discrimination, stigma, harassment, and persecution on account of their sex characteristics, which do not fit binary notions of typical male or female bodies.

Intersex persons routinely face forced medical surgeries that are conducted at a young age without free or informed consent. These interventions jeopardize their physical integrity and ability to live free.

The United States is a proud and founding member of the Equal Rights Coalition, a recently established Coalition of 31 governments that aims to “strengthen cooperation to advance the human rights of, and support inclusive development for all persons regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, and sex characteristics.” We hope this Coalition will work to share best practices and to jointly address challenges in support of the human rights of intersex persons.

Through the Global Equality Fund, the United States, together with the Fund’s 25 government, foundation, and business partners, are supporting new efforts of the intersex community to mobilize and organize, with the goals of increasing awareness of and support for intersex persons and their human rights. The Fund was launched in 2011 to support civil society in their efforts to advance human rights and uphold dignity for all.

On Intersex Awareness Day, we are reminded that all people everywhere are created equal and should be afforded equal dignity and respect, regardless of sex characteristics. We look forward to continued cooperation with civil society, like-minded governments, and others to advance the human rights of intersex persons.

OAS LGBTI Core Group Welcomes Supreme Court Decision on Consensual Private Sexual Acts Between Adults in Belize

The Governments of Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, the United States, and Uruguay, the members of the OAS LGBTI Core Group, welcome the recent decision of Belize’s Supreme Court that found parts of the criminal code criminalizing consensual same-sex activities unconstitutional. We believe that laws that discriminate validate other forms of discrimination and violence.

We recognize that the Supreme Court of Belize has taken a historic and positive step towards full inclusion, and encourage the government of Belize and others in the region to continue common efforts to promote and protect the human rights of all people.  We will continue our collaboration at the OAS on issues impacting LGBTI persons so as to enhance dialogue, cooperation, and the sharing of best practices.  Combatting discrimination is a challenge every nation faces and a challenge we can all work together to overcome.

____________________________________________________

 

Washington, DC, 26 de septiembre de 2016

Declaración conjunta 

El Core Group LGTBI de la OEA saluda el fallo de la Corte Suprema de Belice sobre las relaciones sexuales consensuadas entre adultos

Los Gobiernos de Argentina, Brasil, Canadá, Chile, Colombia, Estados Unidos, México y Uruguay, miembros del Core Group LGTBI de la Organización de los Estados Americanos, reciben con satisfacción la decisión de la Corte Suprema de Belice, que declara la inconstitucionalidad de una parte de su código penal, el cual prohíbe y penaliza las relaciones sexuales consensuadas entre personas del mismo sexo. Creemos que las leyes discriminatorias sólo validan otras formas de discriminación y violencia.

Reconocemos este paso histórico, dado por el Tribunal Supremo hacia la inclusión total y alentamos al Gobierno de Belice, y a otros en la región, a que continúen sumando esfuerzos para promover y proteger los derechos humanos de todas las personas.  Seguiremos colaborando en la OEA, respecto de las materias que afectan a las personas LGTBI con el fin de ampliar el diálogo, la cooperación y el intercambio de buenas prácticas.  Combatir la discriminación es un desafío que cada país enfrenta y es un desafío sobre el que podemos aunar esfuerzos para conseguirlo.

When The U.S. Backs Gay And Lesbian Rights In Africa, Is There A Backlash?

Uganda 2014 Pride

Photo: Ben Curtis/AP

Repost from NPR

Everyone knew President Obama would say something about gay rights when he made his visit to Kenya last summer. Many American activists were pressing him to publicly condemn Kenya’s colonial-era law making homosexuality a crime.

But Kenyan gays and lesbians were wary. In the weeks leading up to Obama’s visit, Kenyan politicians took to the airwaves to assert their anti-gay bona fides. Deputy President William Ruto gave a guest sermon in a church to announce that Kenya “had no room” for homosexuality. As the vitriol increased, so did the incidents of violence, from assaults to rape.

“That was the most tense [period] in our life, before Obama came,” says John Mathenge, the director of a community center and health clinic in Nairobi called HOYMAS — Health Options for Young Men with HIV/AIDS and STIs. His clinic usually averages 50 visitors a day; in the weeks before Obama’s arrival there were no more than 2 or 3. “People weren’t even coming to collect their ARVs [anti-retroviral medication] because they feared they were going to be attacked.”

It wasn’t just Kenyans who were worried. OutRight Action International, a New York-based not-for-profit that advocates for LGBT rights around the world, took the position that President Obama should not mention gay rights when he visited Kenya.

“LGBTI rights have become a political lightning rod,” explained OutRight director Jessica Stern. Though the organization is devoted to pressing for gay rights overseas, she urged the U.S. government to push for “substance over symbolism” — that is, working behind the scenes to improve the legal and social climate for LGBT people rather than issuing too many public pronouncements that could be seen as finger-wagging and that could compromise the efforts of local activists. “We know it’s very easy for LGBTI Africans to be discredited as Western,” she said. (The acronym is a version of LGBT and stands for “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex.”)

Over the last four years, the American government has engaged in an ambitious campaign to defend the rights of gay and lesbian people overseas, especially in Africa, where the majority of countries outlaw homosexuality and anti-gay sentiment remains strong. But African activists struggle with the double-edged sword of American support. While they say that U.S. attention has given a needed boost to their movement, the protection of an outsider can complicate the path to true acceptance. Continue Reading at NPR

House LGBT Caucus Remembers Slain Turkish Transgender Activist Hande Kader

Press Statement – Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus
Washington, D.C. – The Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus mourned the senseless murder of 22-year-old Turkish transgender activist Hande Kader and called on the Turkish government to take steps to protect the LGBT community from hate crimes.
“Last year I met gay and trans activists while on a fact-finding mission in Turkey and was inspired by their courage, so my heart breaks for Hande Kader’s friends and loved ones in the aftermath of this unspeakable tragedy,” said LGBT Equality Caucus Co-Chair Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (NY-18).  “The Turkish government must take strong action to ensure that LGBT Turks are protected, safe, and able to live their lives openly and freely. Violence against transgender people is a global crisis, and lawmakers and government officials all across the world, including in the United States, need to confront this epidemic before more lives are lost.”
Hande Kader’s murder reflects the deteriorating environment for Turkey’s LGBT community.  Turkey has some of the highest numbers of transgender murder within Europe according to the human rights group Transgender Europe.  This past June, authorities banned Istanbul Pride celebrations and used tear gas against activists who attempted to celebrate.  Rep. Maloney has previously led on letters to the Turkish Ambassador to the United States protesting crackdowns on the 2015 and 2016 Istanbul Pride Parades.
“The horrific and senseless murder of activist Hande Kader is a sobering reminder about the daily violence faced by transgender people across the world,” said Transgender Equality Task Force Chair Rep. Mike Honda (D-Silicon Valley).  “No one should be intimidated, discriminated against, brutalized or murdered for openly expressing their gender identity. I call on the authorities to vigorously prosecute those involved, and I stand with all people who support justice for Hande.”
This past November, the Transgender Equality Task Force hosted a landmark forum violence against the transgender community, seeking to raise awareness about the epidemic against transgender people.
The mission of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus is to promote lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) equality. The bi-partisan LGBT Equality Caucus is strongly committed to achieving the full enjoyment of human rights for LGBT people in the U.S. and around the world. By serving as a resource for Members of Congress, their staff, and the public on LGBT issues, the Caucus works toward the extension of equal rights, the repeal of discriminatory laws, the elimination of hate-motivated violence, and the improved health and wellbeing for all regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression.

Mark Bromley Testifies Before the U.S. Congress

Mark Bromley Testifies at Foreign Affairs Committee Hearing on Global Human Rights

Council Chair Mark Bromley testified before the U.S. Congress in a hearing focused on “Human Rights Under Siege Worldwide.”  The hearing was convened on the one-month anniversary of the tragic massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, and it was the first time that the foreign affairs committee had ever invited a witness to speak to global human rights trends impacting LGBT individuals.  He testified that “targeted LGBT violence, and anti-LGBT propaganda in general, challenge fundamental democratic values and pluralistic societies everywhere.”  He concluded by noting that “countries that turn on their own LGBT citizens, or that scapegoat their LGBT citizens to distract from broader political or economic failings, are equally likely to turn on other ethnic or religious minorities and on human rights and democracy groups writ large.

You can watch the testimony here and read the statement for the record here.


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