ARTICLE 19 today joined the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA) and other organisations in an oral statement to call on the UN Human Rights Council to take action to end violence and discrimination against people on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity.
The joint statement emphasises the importance of all States supporting the adoption of draft resolution A/HRC/27/L.27 on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity, currently being considered at the 27th Session of the Human Rights Council.
The resolution, tabled by Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Uruguay, takes two important steps to address human rights violations committed against people on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, including in relation to the right to freedom of expression:
- Firstly, it reiterates grave concern by the Council at acts of violence and discrimination in all parts of the world against people on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity;
- Secondly, it calls on the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to update its landmark 2011 report on violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity (A/HRC/19/41).
The resolution is overdue, as it has been more than three years since the Council adopted its historic resolution 17/19 on human rights, sexual orientation, and gender identity.
Earlier this year, independent experts on freedom of expression, freedom of association and assembly and human rights defenders representing the UN, the Organisation of American States (OAS), the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), adopted a joint statement urging action from the Human Rights Council to protect and promote the rights of all people to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
The independent experts stressed that these rights are “essential in allowing individuals to claim other rights, in particular the rights to freedom from discrimination and equality before the law, and they can contribute to fostering public debate in society.”
The draft resolution, if adopted, would send a clear signal to States that violations of the right to freedom of expression and other rights on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity will not be tolerated and cannot be ignored.
Unfortunately, a request for the OHCHR to engage in biennial reporting to the Council on violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, contained in the original draft of the resolution, was stripped from the text as the negotiations entered their final stages.
This last-minute amendment means that the resolution does not establish the institutional response to this issue, which civil society have spent the last three years calling for. Biennial reporting would have allowed for regular and constructive dialogue at the Council on the human rights concerns that LGBTI people face, detached from the politicised process of negotiating resolutions. Over time, this would allow greater consensus to be built on how States must act to protect and promote the human rights of all people, no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Nevertheless, ensuring that the draft resolution passes by consensus is crucially important.
Even with the concessions made by the Core Group, hostile “wrecking” amendments to strip all references to sexual orientation and gender identity from the resolution have been proposed by States including Bahrain, Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Malaysia, Namibia, Nigeria, South Sudan, and the United Arab Emirates. Human Rights Council Member States must oppose these amendments and support the text as drafted, with a view to sustaining consideration of this topic by the Council in future.
Finally, we recall that two years ago UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the Human Rights Council “the time has come” to act on discrimination and violence against LGBTI people. Today ARTICLE 19 has joined ILGA to stress that “the world is watching” and expects action. There can be no more excuses for delay.