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During its 60th session, the United Nations’ Commission on the Status of Women delivered their Agreed Conclusions that aim to diminish the gender gaps that women and girls suffer, but exclude explicit references to the particular discrimination that many people suffer on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity.
Although there were many expectations about its role promoting and recommending the fulfillment of all human rights to every woman and girl –thus including lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons-, in the document approved by the CSW there were only a paragraph that LGBTI persons can use as a tool to put forward whenever a human rights violation affects them. It is the paragraph that emphasizes “no country has fully achieved gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls, that significant levels of inequality between women and men, girls and boys persist globally, and that many women and girls experience vulnerability and marginalization owing to, inter alia, multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination throughout their lifecycle”.
After two-week deliberations, representatives of the countries that participated in CSW during its 60th session voted for a document that reaffirms the commitments to gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls made in previous sessions and currently valid agreements and conventions that protect women’s and girls’ human rights, such as CEDAW and Beijing’s Platform of Action, among others.
Many representatives of the civil society worked closely with country delegates to push forward the defense and respect of human rights of all women and girls. The process concluded in the final agreement statement that it is clear about asking the States to respect, promote and fulfill human rights to all women and girls and to make discrimination on the grounds of gender come to an end. Nevertheless, it is weak regarding the need to stop human rights violations on the basis on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Despite the advances that the Agreed Conclusions mean in comparison to the ones delivered during CSW59, there was several bad news in terms of calling States to protect human rights of LGBTI persons. One of them was the deletion of a paragraph proposed by the Government of Canada and supported by many other countries that would have helped stop violence and discrimination that LGBTI people face. It said “the Commission 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”. Recognizing the ongoing harassment, blackmail and imprisonment, among a wide range of violence that many LGBTI persons suffer in a large number of countries where they live, is a starting point to put a halt to these unacceptable human rights violations. The exclusion of SOGI language within Agreed Conclusions was the result of the pressure that conservative countries and right wing representatives put into the discussions that led to a document with many other omissions.
The agreed conclusions also lack explicit reference to comprehensive sexuality education (CSE), a matter not just about reproduction but also about sexuality, gender identity, health relationships, and sexual and reproductive rights. CSE was in the draft version of the Agreed Conclusions but this matter was taken away after the two-week deliberations. Something similar happened with paragraphs which tended to recognize various forms of family and to acknowledge the fact that families are diverse and can include single-parent households, extended families, child-headed households, grandparent-headed households, cohabiting couples, and families headed by same-sex couples, among others.
Perhaps there is a good news related to the approved health paragraph that tends to “ensure the promotion and protection of the human rights of all women and their sexual and reproductive health, and reproductive rights” and the “enforcement of policies and legal frameworks and the strengthening of health systems that make universally accessible and available quality comprehensive sexual and reproductive health-care services”. It also recognizes “that human rights include the right to have control over and decide freely and responsibly on matters related to their sexuality, including sexual and reproductive health, free from coercion, discrimination and violence”.
Even when the civil society did a hard job together with many country missions to the United Nations in order to keep some paragraphs included in the draft document, conservative representative succeed in avoiding language that explicitly named “sexual orientation and gender identity” violence and discrimination towards LGBTI persons as well as sexual and reproductive health and rights.
It is time CSW included gender identity and sexual orientation within its range of matter and pronounced itself to guarantee the respect and fulfillment of human rights to every woman and girl.