Members of the United Nations Human Rights Council representing over eighty different countries signed a statement Tuesday calling for an end to violence, criminal sanctions and other human rights violations against people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Among several clauses, the statement says: “We express concern at continued evidence in every region of acts of violence and related human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity brought to the Council’s attention by Special Procedures since that time, including killings, rape, torture and criminal sanctions.”
This move, heavily supported by the Obama Administration, has been praised by international LGBTI groups who point out growing support among UN member nations.
“We welcome the Statement just read at the UN Human Rights Council and signed by 84 Countries, as a sign of the growing international, cross-regional consensus around the need to protect people persecuted because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Also to engage in a truly universal application of human rights,” said Renato Sabbadini, one of ILGA’s two Co-Secretary Generals, speaking from ILGA’s headquarters in Brussels. According to Sabbadini, “The strength of this Statement makes the defence of discrimination against lesbians, gays, bisexual, trans and intersex people on the basis of a mistaken sense of ‘tradition’ or ‘natural order’ more untenable than ever. Homophobia and transphobia are more and more acknowledged for what they truly are: the last crumbling pillars of a patriarchal order which belong with other dark pages of our past, like slavery and the Inquisition.”
Compared to a similar Human Rights Council joint declaration on this topic in 2006 and to a UN General Assembly Statement in 2008, this Statement acknowledges for the first time also the positive developments on recognition of LGBTI human rights in each region of the world. It also establishes as a principle that “no one should face stigmatization, violence or abuse on any ground, and that in dealing with sensitive issues, the Council must be guided by the principles of universality and non-discrimination.” This was enabled by the preceding 2008 UN General Assembly Statement, which for the first time inserted sexual orientation and gender identity in the UN interpretation of the Universal declaration of Human Rights, by reaffirming the non-discrimination principle of international law, requiring that human rights apply equally to each human being.
Apart from more countries signing the joint declaration, 84 this year to 66 in 2008 and 54 in 2006, there is also a shift towards more countries from the South signing on, including from regions where these issues are still highly sensitive like Africa, Asia and the Caribbean. Among the newcomers in signing the declaration are countries like: Dominica, Honduras, Central African Republic, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, and Seychelles.
A statement by Ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe, U.S. Representative to the Human Rights Council, reads:
“We are proud to have taken a leading role on the statement issued today at the Human Rights Council [...] entitled ‘Ending Acts of Violence and Related Human Rights Violations Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.’ Human rights are the inalienable right of every person, no matter who they are or who they love. The U.S. government is firmly committed to supporting the right of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals to lead productive and dignified lives, free from fear and violence. We look forward to working with other Governments from all regions and with civil society to continue dialogue at the Council on these issues.”
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