United Nations Moves Forward on LGBT Rights

Opening up U.S. assistance programs to LGBT populationsThe United Nations process to discuss a Human Rights Council resolution on sexual orientation and gender identity ended in Oslo on Tuesday with a conclusions document that calls for a special UN mechanism for ongoing attention to human rights abuses based on sexual orientation and gender identity. In 2011, the South African government, together with a group of other supportive nations, led a successful resolution on LGBT issues that called for a high-level panel discussion as well as a report outlining the vast array of human rights abuses that take place every day across the globe based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Oslo was the wrap up event after regional meetings took place earlier this year in Latin America, Europe, Asia, and parts of Africa. Over 200 governmental and non-governmental delegates were invited to Oslo for an event co-hosted by South Africa and Norway, representing over 60 countries for two days of intense discussions and debates. Highlights of the conference included video messages from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon as well as the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillar. Both strongly called for a new mechanism to regularly track and report on human rights abuses based on sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as chronicle promising practices for combating such abuses. Many side conversations about promising developments took place with government representatives in attendance. Moldovan government officials talked about their new Equality Council, which will launch in the summer to help implement their new Anti-Discrimination Law, which should help protect against anti-LGBT bias. Vietnam is revising their Family Law, and the government is seriously considering expanding the definition of family to be fully inclusive of same-sex relationships. Many other governments discussed both their problems as well as their practices in addressing discrimination and violence.

The Council for Global Equality participated in two regional pre-meetings together with two of our member organizations, the National Center for Transgender Equality as well as the National Center for Lesbian Rights. We drew attention to the many issues here in the United States that stand in the way of full equality for LGBT Americans. We also worked with our colleagues from the regions to ensure that the array of LGBT human rights concerns would be addressed in the next steps that the UN Human Rights Council takes in its next resolution on sexual orientation and gender identity.

The Council was very pleased that the United States government’s participation in this important process was strong and steadfastly supportive of its LGBT citizenry, as well as its commitments to LGBT people globally. Other governments, particularly South Africa, were similarly clearly supportive of moving the bar higher in the next iteration of this resolution coming up in June. LGBT advocates and supportive governments around the world are ready to encourage additional governmental co-sponsors of the coming resolution, as well as to ensure that the 47 members of the HRC vote in favor of it’s passage. As Ban Ki -Moon said in his video message to the conference: Together we can make the world safer, freer, and more equal for everyone.

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