The past few months have seen more than hoped for engagement at the United Nations and a restructuring and strengthening of relationships with partner organisations, particularly in the east and south. We are happy to share these updates with you.
MEETINGS & CONFERENCES
Pacific LGBTQI Human Rights Conference
LGBTQI organised groups convened for the Pacific LGBTQI Human Rights Conference in in Nuku’alofa, Tonga, in May. Co-organized by the Pacific Sexual Diversity Network (PSDN), Diverse Voices for Action and Equality (DIVA) and ARC International (ARC), the conference was hosted by the Tonga Leiti Association (TLA) in Nuku’alofa, Tonga. The conference proved vital in connecting groups from across the Pacific region and educating activists on international human rights law, recent international developments and agreed principles such as the Yogyakarta Principles. Read the full report of the conference here: “Our Voices, our Communities, our Rights: Advancing Human Rights related to Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity & Expression in the Pacific”.
Annual Law and Society Conference
Geneva Director Arvind Narrain presented as part of the Envisioning Global project at the Annual Law and Society Conference. The conference in Seattle on May 28, 2015, focused on the promises and perils of the law. Envisioning Global LGBT Rights presented on “Constitutional Challenges to Post-Colonial Criminal Law – The Experience in Two Commonwealth Regions”. Narrain’s paper explored the Indian experience of criminalisation, de-criminalisation and re- criminalisation of LGBTI lives. Other presenters on the Envisioning Team shared research in Uganda, Botswana and Kenya.
Conference of the Women’s and gender studies et Recherches Feministes
Communications Officer Maria Fontenelle was part of a three person team of Envisioning researchers to present at the Conference of the Women’s and gender studies et recherches feministes (WGSRF) in Ottawa at the end of May. The panel on LGBT Human Rights in the Caribbean constituted part of the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences 2015, Women and Gender Studies. Fontenelle’s “Compliance and Resistance: Fruits of Criminalisation” examined the comparative safety and visibility of LGBT Saint Lucians with increasing and open advocacy for the full recognition of their human rights.
Caribbean Women and Sexual Diversity Conference
ARC proudly supported the 3rd annual Caribbean Women and Sexual Diversity Conference (CWSDC) in October, 2015, in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. Activists from 16 Caribbean and Latin American countries met to network and build their capacity in advocacy.
Executive Director, Kim Vance, presented a session to assist activists in navigating international spaces such as the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) and the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). Communications Officer Maria Fontenelle led a session on using media in advocacy, with a focus on utilising readily available low-cost platforms.
Contributions to Jurist Magazine
Arvind Narrain has most recently been included as a contributor to JURIST, a web-based news and real-time legal research service that provides legal news and expert analysis to the public. Narrain’s pieces “Decoding the Politics Underlying the Resolution on Protection of the Family” and “The Right Not To Be Mutilated: Intersex People and The Quest For Justice” were included in Professional Commentary, Jurist’s platform for newsmakers, activists and legal experts to comment on national and international legal developments.
Envisioning Global Publication
Three ARC staff have now submitted their chapters for the Envisioning Global LGBT Human Rights book, which will be published by The Institute for Commonwealth Studies at the University of London. The vast topics include “The rise of SOGI: Human Rights for LGBT people at the United Nations” (Vance, Mulé, Khan and McKenzie), “Cultural discourse in Africa and the promise of human rights based on non-normative sexuality and/or gender expression: exploring the intersections, challenges, and opportunities” (Tabengwa, Mbaru and Vance), “Vacillating between Empathy and Contempt: The Indian judiciary and LGBTI rights” (Narrain) and “Compliance and Resistance: Fruits of criminalisation” (Fontenelle).
UPR training for African activists
In June 2015, ARC, COC Netherlands, PAI (Pan-Africa ILGA) and ORN (Out-Right Namibia) partnered to support 15 people from African LGBTI organisations with their preparations and submissions of country UPR reports and shadow reports to highlight human rights violations. This two-day training session focused on ensuring that recommendations made during the first UPR cycle were critically assessed and followed up on, to track progress on implementation and possible positive strides made in the realisation of positive recommendations.
Training in trans advocacy at the UN
In collaboration with Transgender Europe (TGEU), ARC International conducted a 3-day UN training in Geneva in September. Trans activists from the global south and east and eastern Europe increased their capacity in utilising UN human rights mechanisms to advance the rights of trans and gender diverse people in their national and regional contexts. Participants profited from the opportunity to observe and participate in the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process of the UN Human Rights Council, to participate in a side event at the UN on the human rights of trans people, to meet with diplomatic representatives of various countries and to network and exchange knowledge with other activists and NGOs. ARC and TGEU will also be publishing a guide/tool kit for trans activists who wish to engage with the UN.
29th session of the Human Rights Council
The highlight of the 29th session of the Human Rights Council, held in Geneva from the June 15 – July 3, 2015, saw the release of the Report of the High Commissioner on human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The Report has the potential for becoming an important tool for global as well as regional and national advocacy. We were pleased that ARC’s Geneva Director, Arvind Narrain, was the civil society representative chosen to speak on the panel when the report was released. Arvind was also invited to speak to the issue of “unversality” on a panel sponsored by Muslims for Progressive Values. The increasing mainstreaming of the rights of LGBTI persons was reflected in the fact that that as in previous sessions, LGBTI issues found mention in the reports of many Special Rapporteurs including the Special Rapporteurs on the right to heath, and the protection of human rights during counter terrorism, as well as in state and civil society responses to the same.Even as the rights of LGBTI persons are possibly more mainstreamed than ever before, the opposition to granting these rights remains as strident as ever.
Read the complete analysis in our report of the 29th session of the Human Rights Council, which contests that “Denying the rights of persons based on sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex status challenges the universality of human rights”. It can be accessed in English | en français | en español.
The 30th Session of the Human Rights Council did not have a specific focus on LGBTI issues. However a significant step forward in this Council session, was the specific attention paid to transgender and intersex human rights concerns. The fact that the High Commissioner mentioned the rights of intersex persons in a wider speech on human rights concerns in the world underscored the gravity of rights violations being faced by intersex persons in all regions of the world. By having separate side events on both intersex and transgender rights, an effort was made to disaggregate the LGBTI acronym and promote a greater education on otherwise marginalized groups and populations. LGBTI issues were raised in many spaces indicating the increasing mainstreaming of LGBTI concerns, however this was accompanied by strong opposition from those states which did not see LGBTI rights as human rights. In short the polarized debate at the 30 HRC on LGBTI rights continued. Read more in ARC’s full report, accessible in English | en français | en español.
OTHER NEWS AND DEVELOPMENTS
As a member of the founding working group for the Dignity Initiative, ARC and many other Canadian civil society groups used the recent Canadian elections in October to finalize and widely circulate a 22-point “Call to Action“ on how Canada can defend and promote human rights for LBGTI people around the world. We were very pleased at the response it got from a vast cross-section of Canadians, and are happy to announce that it was endorsed by three of the federal parties, one of which (the Liberal Party) has formed the new government. We look forward to ensuring that we hold them to their commitments as they attempt to usher in a new platform of change for Canadian role in the international landscape.
International Human Rights Day
ARC will be sending its ED, Kim Vance, to participate in a week of advocacy and events coordinated by OutRight Action International and taking place in New York around International Human Rights Day (December 10th).
Arvind Narrain will be a discussant in the screening of Nancy Nicol’s film , No Easy Walk to Freedom in screenings in London and Glasgow in November, 2015.
Arvind was an observer in a conference on Gender Diversity and Social Inclusion organized by KAOS –GL in Ankara with a view to facilitating more international engagements of Turkish LGBT groups ( 5 and 6th November, 2015).
International Strategy Meeting on Women’s Rights, Gender Justice and Religious Fundamentalisms
Arvind has been invited to participate in AWID’s meeting in Turkey on International Strategy Meeting on Women’s Rights, Gender Justice and Religious Fundamentalisms (9-11 December, 2015).
Documentation Training for MENA region activists
ARC has been working a partner organization in the MENA region since last March to co-facilitate a training on documentation/reporting of human rights violations with a small group of feminist and LGBTI advocates in the region. Kim Vance will be conducting this training in Beirut, Lebanon in January.*International dialogue on the intersections of culture/tradition with* *human rights related to gender and sexuality.
International dialogue on the intersections of culture/tradition with human rights related to gender and sexuality
February 19-23, 2016 Istanbul, Turkey. February 19-23, 2016 Istanbul, Turkey As a shared partnership between ARC International and MantiQitna Network the International Dialogue will connect human rights defenders in the MENA region with those working on issues of gender and sexuality in other regions. It aims to strengthen monitoring, documenting and reporting of LGBT-related human rights violations, and develop strategies to address issues of culture and tradition in the MENA region, and around the world.
Look out for a call for applications, coming soon.
Thank you for being part of the movement with ARC International. Your support and partnership continues to strengthen our efforts to affect change.
Best, from Kim, Arvind and Maria