Top UN human rights body condemns violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity

The United Nations Human Rights Council has adopted a landmark resolution on combating violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The HRLC’s Directory of Advocacy, Anna Brown, was present in Geneva and worked together with advocates on the passage of resolution.

“This is a modest but crucially important step towards building an international consensus on the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people and ensuring sustained and systematic attention on these issues,” said Ms Brown.

“In the same way that the Council’s work on other areas has developed, this resolution can be built on in the future and hopefully eventually we will achieve a stronger mechanism to report on and investigate violations on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity on an ongoing basis.”

In June 2011 a resolution co-sponsored by South Africa and Brazil was the first resolution of the Council to address SOGI issues. Over three years later, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Uruguay, and 42 additional co-sponsors introduced this follow up 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 favour, 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.

Advocates welcomed supportive remarks made by the newly appointed UN High Commissioner for Human Rights earlier in the Council session. “There is no justification ever, for the degrading, the debasing or the exploitation of other human beings – on whatever basis: nationality, race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability, age or caste,” said Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. These comments follow on ground-breaking work by his predecessor, Navi Pillay, and UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, on issues of sexual orientation and gender identity.

“This pattern of human rights violations is global in nature, and therefore requires a global response. In all regions of the world, including in Europe, discrimination and violence on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity are a daily reality for many,” said Nori Spauwen from COC Netherlands. “The Human Rights Council resolution is a significant moment for global LGBTI movements, and for people around the world who have worked tirelessly for human rights for everyone,” said Monica Tabengwa, LGBT rights researcher and an ILGA Board Member, Kenya.  “We intend to press the Council to keep these concerns atop its agenda, and ensure sustained attention and action.”

Ms Brown welcomed the constructive role that Australia was playing in relation to the resolution. “We’re pleased to see Australia co-sponsoring this resolution and taking an active role to assist its passage through the council. We strongly encourage the Government to continue its promotion of LGBTI rights internationally,” said Ms Brown. 

Ms Brown said the efforts of the UN Human Rights Council would help LGBTI people everywhere across the globe, including Australia.

“In Australia, sexual minorities experience significantly poorer mental health outcomes and face high levels of discrimination, harassment, abuse and hate crime. The time has come for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people to be afforded the dignity and rights that we are entitled to as human beings,” said Ms Brown.

For a copy of the resolution please click here.  For a copy of a statement delivered by Anna Brown to the Human Rights Council please click here.