Posts Tagged 'United Nations Human RIghts Council'

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.

United Nations Makes History on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

Press Statement from coalition of civil society organizations

UN human rights body establishes an Independent Expert

(Geneva, June 30, 2016) In a defining vote, the United Nations Human Rights Council adopted a resolution on “Protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation, and gender identity”, to mandate the appointment of an Independent Expert on the subject. It is a historic victory for the human rights of all persons who are at risk of discrimination and violence because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, 28 human rights groups said today. This resolution builds upon two previous resolutions, adopted by the Council in 2011 and 2014.

The Core Group of seven Latin American countries – Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico, Uruguay – and 41 additional countries jointly presented the text.

The resolution was adopted by a vote of 23 in favor, 18 against and 6 abstentions.

“This is truly momentous,” said Micah Grzywnowicz from the Swedish Federation for LGBTQ Rights, RFSL. “This is our opportunity to bring international attention to specific violations and challenges faced by transgender and gender non-conforming persons in all regions. It’s time for international community to take responsibility to ensure that persons at risk of violence and discrimination because of gender identity are not left behind.”

“It’s an historic resolution,” added Josefina Valencia from International LGBTI Association for Latin America and the Caribbean, ILGA LAC. “Latin America has played a very important role to build a common course for the advancement of our human rights. We are proud of the international solidarity and the commitment shown by States for equality.”

The positive vote responds to a joint campaign of a record 628 nongovernmental organizations from 151 countries calling on the Council to adopt the resolution and create the SOGI Independent Expert.

”It is important to note that around 70% of the organizations are from the global south,” said Yahia Zaidi of MantiQitna Network. “This is a powerful cross regional message of strength to the United Nations to protect the rights of LGBTI persons. The Independent Expert will be a focal point for all violations based on SOGI and hence help grassroots organizations to better utilize the otherwise complex labyrinth of the UN system.”

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.

“To have an Independent Expert can be a ‘game-changer’ in counter-acting violence which fuels the HIV epidemic in key populations and more specifically in LGBT communities,” said Alain Kra of Espace Confiance.

“It will ease the work of all human rights defenders and it is essential for our governments and people to have the knowledge on how to protect LGBT communities from any violence and discrimination they face,” added Joleen Mataele of the Tonga Leiti’s Association.

Although a number of hostile amendments seeking to introduce notions of cultural relativism were adopted into the text by vote, the core of the resolution affirming the universal nature of international human rights law stood firm.

We hope that this resolution will mark a turning point in the struggle to create a world free from violence and discrimination for all people regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity.


Results of the vote

Voting in favor of the resolution

Albania, Belgium, Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, France, Georgia, Germany, Latvia, Macedonia, Mexico, Mongolia, Netherlands, Panama, Paraguay, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Slovenia, Switzerland, UK, Venezuela, Viet Nam

Voting against the resolution

Algeria, Bangladesh, Burundi, China, Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Maldives, Morocco, Nigeria, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Togo, United Arab Emirates

Abstaining on the resolution

Botswana, Ghana, India, Namibia, Philippines, South Africa

To consolidate an Obama legacy, entrench support for global LGBT rights

White HouseRepost from The Hill by Raymond Smith

With attention increasingly turning to the legacy of the Obama administration, one area of civil rights seems sure to be viewed as a breakthrough success: the recognition and advancement of equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. And while this legacy is already on solid footing on the domestic front, many opportunities still exist to entrench support for LGBT rights globally.

In 2008, Obama ran as a “fierce ally” of the LGBT community, yet many were unimpressed by the early months of his administration. In 2009, the LGBT magazine The Advocate ran a parody of his iconic “Hope” poster with the caption “Nope?” Shortly before the 2012 election, however, the same magazine ran a cover with his face superimposed on the grand seated statue in the Lincoln Memorial.

What changed so drastically over time? The evolution of the administration began with a host of incremental steps, such as ensuring hospital visitation rights to same-sex partners and lifting the ban on entry to the U.S. to people with HIV. Over time, Obama led the successful repeal of the ban on “gays in the military” and ensured the enactment of an LGBT-inclusive hate crimes bill. Using the bully pulpit, he filmed a segment for the “It Gets Better” campaign in support of LGBT teens, and in his second inaugural address, he cited the landmark Stonewall Riots of 1969 alongside Seneca Falls and Selma as turning points in civil rights history.

Perhaps most of all, Obama personally endorsed same-sex marriage and his administration refused to defend the unconstitutional Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Since the Supreme Court overturned DOMA in 2013, the administration has been diligent and proactive in extending the full range of marriage equality rights with regard to immigration, access to federal programs, taxation and more. At the same time, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act this year has begun to be interpreted, for the first time, to confer federal anti-discrimination protections on transgender people.

Much less noticed has been an equally impressive parallel track taken with regard to promotion of LGBT rights around the world. Three years ago this week, in December 2011, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave a speech emphasizing that “gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights.” The phrasing echoed her famous speech as first lady on women’s rights, given in Beijing 15 years prior, which signaled the inclusion of gender equality as a central focus of U.S. foreign policy.

Concurrently, Obama issued a “Presidential Memorandum on International Initiatives to Advance the Human Rights of LGBT Persons.” Unlike on the more scattered and improvised domestic-policy side, this one landmark document has served as a coherent strategic blueprint for action by the federal government.

The memorandum contains several major elements, including combating anti-LGBT criminalization abroad, protecting LGBT refugees and asylum seekers, responding to anti-LGBT human rights abuses internationally, providing targeted foreign assistance and engaging international organizations to secure LGBT rights. In all of these areas, the State Department has outlined a range of accomplishments.

For example, a Global Equality Fund has been established to bridge government, companies and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to provide emergency and long-term assistance. The fund promotes LGBT rights through a small grants program, an emergency protection rapid response mechanism, and long-term capacity-building efforts for human rights organizations overseas. Protections for asylum seekers has also been expanded; in one notable case, a Ugandan LGBT rights activist was recently provided asylum rather than being forced to return to a potentially fatal environment in his home country.

Likewise, embassies around the world have begun proactively engaging with governments and human rights organizations. And at the United Nations, the U.S. is a charter member of the LGBT Core Group, which in September issued a ministerial declaration on “Ending Violence and Discrimination against Individuals Based on Their Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.”

Despite these crucial steps, much more work remains to be done. “The U.S. blueprint for action can be a powerful force, but only if its approach is consistent and guided by the understanding that all rights are indivisible and universal,” said Jessica Stern, executive director of the New York-based International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission.

“Achieving change will demand focused attention. One crucial step forward would be the immediate creation of a Special Envoy for LGBT Rights at the State Department,” Stern noted. Such an envoy would act as a high-level advocate for LGBT concerns, working within the State Department, bilaterally with other countries and through multilateral organizations. The position of special envoy is the focus of bill introduced last summer by Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.).

Likewise, the Council for Global Equality, a Washington-based NGO with the goal of advancing an American foreign policy inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity, “has identified a series of actionable next steps that could advance the Administration’s commitment by moving the government from a reactive posture to a longer-term human rights protection agenda,” according to the council Chair Mark Bromley. These objectives, added Bromley, “are designed to harmonize the Administration’s commitments into a coherent human rights policy — and an enduring legacy of President Obama.”

In addition to creation of the special envoy position, other priority areas include:

  • Requiring automatic policy reviews whenever foreign countries enact new anti-LGBT policies. The review could be triggered by legislation, changes in enforcement patterns or failure to protect LGBT populations. Such a thorough review was conducted after the passage of a particularly repressive anti-gay law in Uganda last year, but it’s unclear that comparable reviews have been undertaken in the case of similar laws enacted in Nigeria and, most recently, Gambia.
  • Mandating that government contractors and grantees globally have LGBT non-discrimination policies as pre-conditions for contracts or assistance. Such a move would parallel an executive order issued last summer banning anti-LGBT discrimination policies among government contracts within the U.S. for domestic contactors.
  • Strengthening policies to protect LGBT rights in multilateral organizations such as the U.N., the World Health Organization, the World Bank, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe and the Organization of American States. The U.S. should also advocate for adequate funding and staffing for such policies to be enforced and monitored.
  • Establishing annual reports and other mechanisms to make information more widely available about federal effort in the realm of global LGBT rights, and also holding more extensive consultations with a range of stakeholders about how best to implement the memorandum.

Whatever further steps the Obama administration takes, some critics will inevitably dismiss the relevance of LGBT rights, or consider LGBT rights a marginal issue when it comes to the forging of a presidential legacy that will stand the test of time.

But such voices have been proven wrong before. They’re the same ones that in the 1960s saw no need for the Civil Rights Act, in the 1970s resisted signing the Helsinki human rights accords, in the 1980s rejected sanctions against apartheid South Africa, in the 1990s mocked steps to advance a global women’s rights agenda and in the 2000s endorsed human rights abuses in the name of fighting terrorism.

Yet, today, each of these incidents is recalled as a badge of honor — or a mark of shame — for the president who presided over them. So, too, will today’s struggle for LGBT rights, both at home and abroad, be recalled as a substantive and productive element of the Obama legacy.

 

Smith is a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute; an adjunct assistant professor of political science at Columbia University and New York University; and author of Importing Democracy: Ideas from Around the World to Reform and Revitalize American Politics and Government.

 

Reflecting UN Progress on Transgender Day of Remembrance

Transgender Day of RemembranceNovember 20, 2014 — Today, on Transgender Day of Remembrance, we remember brave transgender individuals around the world who have been killed because of who they are or how they appear in the world. It therefore seems fitting, on a day like today, to reflect on a draft resolution adopted yesterday by the United Nations that recognizes the sad reality that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals are too often targeted and killed because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

The UN resolution, which condemns “extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions” committed by both government and non-governmental agents, recognizes that certain vulnerable groups of persons – generally those who face broader social exclusion and discrimination – are at particular risk of targeted killing. And when they are attacked, governments are far less likely to investigate the cases or prosecute the perpetrators. Perhaps no such group is at greater risk than transgender individuals – those who dare to live authentic lives in defiance of gender expectations or stereotypes.

Public health groups estimate that the life expectancy of a transgender woman in Latin America is between 30 and 35 years, and possibly lower in parts of Central America. And for regions where transgender homicides are completely ignored and statistics purposefully obscured, the measure of a transgender life may be even lower. Extreme violence goes a long way in explaining these shocking disparities.

In the context of this somber day of remembrance, it is comforting to recognize that the struggle for global equality is gaining ground, even in the culture wars of the United Nations. An effort yesterday by Saudi Arabia to strip the reference to vulnerable groups in the resolution on extrajudicial killings, which was clearly understood as an attempt to strip the sexual orientation and gender identity language from the text, was roundly defeated, with eighty-two governments across all regions voting to name the violence against LGBT individuals and keep the reference to vulnerable groups in the text. Only fifty-three governments supported the Saudi deceit, which represents a growing consensus around LGBT rights as human rights.

The final text was adopted in committee yesterday with only one vote in opposition, and it will now go to the full UN General Assembly for a vote in December. The United States, which in the past has supported the spirit of the text but abstained on technical legal grounds, joined the growing majority in voting for the resolution this year. That represents an additionally important victory for human rights.

The vote at the United Nations yesterday, on the heels of the adoption of another, stand-alone resolution on “human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity” at the United Nations last month, represents a turning point in the way the United Nations responds to human rights violations targeting LGBT individuals. And while its impact may not yet be measured in lives saved or years lived, it represents concerted advocacy and increasing political will within the United Nations. And that growing consensus will eventually be measured in human development – in both the quantity and the quality of the years lived by transgender youth of tomorrow.

U.N. Human Rights Council adopts LGBT resolution

Photo: @gustavopecoraro

Photo: @gustavopecoraro

Press Statement from ARC International

(Geneva, September 26, 2014) – The United Nations Human Rights Council resolution on combatting violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity (L.27/Rev.1), adopted today, Is a critically important achievement for upholding the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 25 human rights groups said today. The resolution follows a resolution adopted three years ago in June 2011, when the Council passed the first ever UN resolution on human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Uruguay, and 42 additional co-sponsors introduced the resolution. In its presentation to the Council, Chile stated that “this resolution does not seek to create new rights…there are some whose rights are more violated and need more protection.“ Colombia added “the report that we request is part of existing international law.“ The resolution survived a total of seven hostile amendments, introduced by Egypt on behalf of ten States, seeking to strip the resolution of all references to sexual orientation and gender identity. Brazil stated that the proposed amendments would “seek to radically change the purpose and focus of the resolution and changes its substance.”  Ultimately, the resolution was passed by a vote of 25 in favor, 14 against, and 7 abstentions, with support from all regions and an increased base of support since 2011.

“The leadership of these Latin American states reflects strong commitment to human rights for all and follows the significant progress that is being made by governments and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, travesti, and intersex activists in the region,” said Andres Rivera Duarte from the Observatorio Derechos Humanos y Legislación, Chile.

The resolution asks the High Commissioner for Human Rights to update a 2012 study on violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity (A/HRC/19/41), with a view to sharing good practices and ways to overcome violence and discrimination. The resolution expresses grave concern at acts of violence and discrimination in all regions of the world committed against individuals because of their sexual orientation and gender identity. This resolution demonstrates that this issue remains on the agenda of the Human Rights Council and sends a message of support to people around the world who experience this type of violence and discrimination, said the 25 groups.

“While we would have preferred to see an institutionalized reporting mechanism, the council has still sent a strong message of support to human rights defenders working on these issues. We look forward to States implementing the outcomes of these reports,” said Jonas Bagas, of TLF Share in the Philippines. Continue reading ‘U.N. Human Rights Council adopts LGBT resolution’

LGBTI Rights Around the World: A Work in Progress

kyleknight-photoRepost: IRIN Humanitarian News

BANGKOK (IRIN) — In recent years, the world has seen enormous human rights gains with respect to sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. However, there have also been substantial setbacks — ranging from discriminatory legislation, to impunity for brutal violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) people.

Charles Radcliffe, chief of the Global Issues Section at the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), noted: “Supporting LGBT rights work around the world is about recognizing that hostilities toward LGBT people are deeply ingrained in societies and that changing those mindsets and protecting these people is the duty of governments.”

Same-sex marriage is now legal in 17 countries and parts of two others; a handful of countries legally recognize gender based on self-identification alone, with Argentinaand Nepal leading the way and Denmark recently joining their ranks. A 2014 Indian Supreme Court judgment in favour of transgender rights showed what one legal scholar, gesturing to Nepali and Pakistani court cases, called “the possibility of developing a unique South Asian jurisprudence on transgender rights.” Continue Reading

Op-Ed “Demonizing Gays in Africa”

Repost from the New York TimesBy 

As acceptance of gays and lesbians has grown in the United States and Europe, intolerance and persecution has been rising in other parts of the world. African nations are leaders in this cruel and dehumanizing trend.

The latest alarms were triggered by a ban in Nigeria on same-sex relationships that was passed by Parliament in May and signed by President Goodluck Jonathan on Jan. 7. Nigeria is a leading oil producer and Africa’s most populous country, and the ban is considered the most significant setback yet to gay rights on the continent.

Although gay sex has been illegal in Nigeria since British colonial rule, the draconian new law criminalizes homosexuality, banning same-sex marriage and prescribing years in prison to anyone who makes a “public show” of same-sex relationships or participates in gay organizations. Even people who simply support gays are subject to criminal arrest and penalties.

Before the new law was enacted, convictions for gay sex were rare in the southern part of Nigeria and occasional in the mostly Muslim north. But since the law went into effect, as Adam Nossiter has reported in The Times, arrests of gays have multiplied and some people have sought asylum overseas. According to Amnesty International, homosexuality is illegal in 38 of 54 countries in Africa. It carries the death penalty in Mauritania, Sudan and Somalia; in northern Nigeria, where Islamic law is practiced, the penalty can be death by stoning. In Senegal, the press regularly “outs” gays and same-sex relations carry a penalty of five years in prison. Another severe law has been passed by Uganda’s Legislature, but President Yoweri Museveni has not and should not sign it.

Such laws violate commitments made by United Nations members in theUniversal Declaration of Human Rights and other human rights documents.

If these nations cannot do the humane thing, they should at least consider their self-interest. For any leader who values stability, it makes no sense to promote new laws that foment greater hostility among people, like in Nigeria, where there is already ethnic tension.

Even in countries where antigay laws are not enforced, they provide an excuse for abuse — including blackmail and extortion — by police, Amnesty International said. It is unlikely that any of these countries can reach their full economic potential because many foreign entities may find it too risky to invest in such hostile environments. These governments, in abusing their citizens, are moving in dangerous and destructive directions.


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