Our e-bulletin #25 is out!

Dear friend and colleagues,

These have been very busy months for ARC’s staff. We have been participating and advocating for LGBTI rights in different spaces within the UN, regional networks and organizations worldwide. We also delivered trainings to strengthen NGO capacities and have been actively working to make our SOGIESC network stronger each day.

We share with you some of what we have been doing.


Equal Rights Coalition (ERC)

ARC continues to contribute to ERC work in two ways. As part of the Dignity Network in Canada, we contribute to ERC civil society coordination efforts, and ARC itself continues to sit on the ERC thematic group on Domestic Laws and Policies. We have also been consulting regularly with the Global Affairs Canada as the co-leadership of the Equal Rights Coalition shifts from Canada/Chile to the UK/Argentina.

ARC will participate in the upcoming ERC meeting in June in Geneva when the formal transition happens.


The Commonwealth Equality Network (TCEN) Global Conference, Mauritius

ARC’s Kim Vance-Mubanga was pleased to be invited to the first Global Conference for TCEN in March where she prepared and delivered a presentation providing a commonwealth-based analysis on LGBTI rights at the UN, and facilitated a discussion on the potential synergies of UN and Commonwealth advocacy. Like the ERC, it was exciting to learn about and take part in discussions about where human rights for LGBTI people can be advanced in different international fora.

As we move toward the next Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in 2020 and a vote this year on the renewal of the UN mandate on SOGI, countries like Rwanda, who are the CHOGM hosts and also have a seat on the Human Rights Council, will play a critical leadership role in shaping history on these issues.

Dignity Network and Canada’s dedicated fund for LGBTIQ2 rights

We are pleased to announce that ARC’s Kim Vance-Mubanga has been appointed as chair of the Dignity Network Steering Committee. She is part of a dedicated team of Canadian civil society involved in international development work, that is building the infrastructure of this relatively young network and also working closely with the Canadian government at a critical moment in its leadership on LGBTI issue globally.

Part of that leadership was solidified on February 9th, when the (former) Minister of International Development, the Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau, announced $30 million (Cdn.) in dedicated funding over five years, followed by $10 million (Cdn.) per year to advance human rights and improve socio-economic outcomes for LGBTQ2 people in developing countries. Kim was in Ottawa for the announcement and for meetings with the Minister, other Dignity Network members and staff at Global Affairs Canada to discuss implementation.

The Dignity Network has been working for months to prepare information and make recommendations to the government in the shaping of this fund and were pleased that many of those recommendations formed part of the announcement.


Yangon Out and Proud

 ARC’s Arvind Narrain travelled to Myanmar in February to deliver a presentation on the  experiences of the India litigation around Section 377. Both India and Myanmar have a similar law left behind by the colonial regime making a sharing of mutual experiences extremely valuable.  The Myanmar LGBT movement is also at an critical moment where future advocacy on behalf of the community is irrevocably tied in with the wider project of democratizing Myanmar.

A blog post, written by Arvind, on this experience titled, “The struggle against Section 377 Myanmar Penal Code: A viewpoint from India” can be found here.              


ILGA World Conference, Wellington, NZ

During the ILGA World Conference (March 18-22), ARC hosted a panel discussion on decriminalisation efforts in the global south which shed light on the context in Kenya and India.  Njeri Gateru from the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission and Chayanika Shah from LABIA shared their experiences around the  decriminalization struggles in their respective countries. The panel was moderated by ARC’s Arvind Narrain.

One of the key takeaways was the way global connections in decriminalisation battles have happened. The Trinidad and Tobago Court in their decision on decriminalisation cited the Indian decision on privacy. The Indian Supreme Court in turn cited the Trinidad and Tobago decision. The decriminalisation hearings in Kenya though posted for judgment on an application by the petitioners were willing to hear arguments about the recent Indian Supreme Court decision on decriminalisation.  Similarly, it was noted that the regret which was expressed by Theresa May in the Commonwealth conference was picked up by the Indian Supreme Court when it said that history owes an apology to LGBT persons and their families.

Arvind also spoke at the plenary session on the decriminalization decision in India, and was a speaker in the panel on the YP plus 10 hosted by our partners, the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR).  During the conference, ILGA also released their State Sponsored Homophobia Report of 2019, which has an article on the Indian decision written by Arvind Narrain titled, Decriminalising the Right to Love: Navtej Singh Johar v. Union of India.

A Good Practice Guide: Building and Sustaining Intersectional Movements

ARC has been contracted by The Equality & Justice Alliance (EJA) to conduct research on intersectionality. The objective of this research is to develop a good practice guide based on stories and lived experiences of how diverse movements can converge together around common agenda’s and/or how movements integrate to champion diverse agendas. We hope such a guide will inspire others to converge and integrate into more cohesive movements, as well as support those interested in coming together to navigate against setbacks that may be experienced in the course of movement and alliance building and strengthening.

We are particularly interested to understand how the LGBT+ movement(s) and the women’s movement(s) have internally and/or across enriched and/or supported in advancing common and diverse agendas.

The research is ongoing and will be concluded by the end of August.

UN Commission on the Status of Women in New York – #CSW63

ARC International actively participated in the 63rd session of the Commission on the Status of Women (March 11-22), which focused on “Social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls”. Before CSW even began, we wrote a letter supporting the successful nomination of our former Research Associate, Erin Aylward, to be part of the official Canadian delegation for the first week of CSW, and accredited Erin to be part of civil society efforts in the second week.

ARC’s Communications Officer, Mariana Winocur helped organize and was part of the panel “Inclusive Public Services for LGBT+ Persons”, where she delivered a speech on “The concept of gender ideology and its effects on public services”, focused on what is happening to LGBTI rights in Latin America under conservative/religious governments. The side event was co-hosted by Canada and the United Kingdom.

Mariana also participated in a strategic meeting with the Canadian Minister for International Development/Women’s and Gender Equality, the honourable Maryam Monsef. The meeting focused on Canada’s new $30 million fund for LGBTIQ2 communities, and some of the most pressing opportunities and challenges LBTI women and gender non-conforming people face globally.

ARC was also very active in the LBTI caucus meetings and disseminated research, messages and images through the CSW LBTI caucus site. During a town hall with UN Secretary General António Guterres, Mariana was randomly chosen to ask a question on behalf of the LBTI caucus about violations of human rights on the grounds of SOGIESC (minute 26:46). (The answer that Guterres gave can be heard here (minute 33:23).

As part of the caucus, Mariana also met UN Women’s ED Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka to continue the ongoing engagement between the CSW LBTI Caucus and UN Women.

Conference on constitutional morality and LGBT Rights and Gender Rights

Arvind Narrain was invited by the students association of the National Law School Bhopal to speak about Constitutional morality and its role in promoting LGBT Rights and Gender Rights.  He addressed how the notion of constitutional morality has been used by the Courts to take forward both the rights of women to be free from discrimination in the sphere of religious participation and the rights of women not be treated stereotypically, as well as LGBT rights. 

This was the result of three recent Supreme Court judgments decriminalizing adultery, same sex relations and striking down a prohibition of menstruating women from entering Sabrimala Temple.


UN Human Rights Mechanisms training in the Caribbean

ARC’s Kim Vance-Mubanga was in St. Kitts and Nevis to conduct a training on UN Human Rights Mechanisms along with partner organizations, ECADE and COC Netherlands (April 30-May 2). This is the second training of its kind in the region, targeting LGBT and other human rights defenders from across the Caribbean and working to build capacity and share best practices around engagement in UN and regional human rights mechanisms.


Looking ahead

HRC/ERC in Geneva

The June/July session of the UN Human Rights Council will be a vital one as the mandate of the Independent Expert on SOGI comes up for renewal. We are working hard with partner organizations and government allies to ensure that there is no roll-back of gains made on this important mandate, and Arvind Narrain will be in Geneva to support these efforts. We are also monitoring the Violence Against Women resolution, and will attend ERC meetings to support the transition in leadership of that body.

Women Deliver Conference, Vancouver

ARC has initiated an on-line discussion and subsequent list-serv among interested participants to facilitate a greater focus on LGBTI rights at this hugely popular and very well-attended mainstream women’s conference. On June 3-6, Kim Vance-Mubanga will be attending the conference and working with a dedicated group of activists to increase visibility in this space through various efforts, such as a Pride House space and programming.

Global Feminist LBQ Women’s* Conference, Cape Town, South Africa

The first Global Feminist LBQ Women’s* Conference will take place in July 6-9, in South Africa. The key themes for this conference are: ‘Leading – Healing – Transforming’. ARC’s Kim Vance-Mubanga has been a member of the Advisory Group for this conference and will participate.

Global Decriminalization Convening, Barbados

ARC’s Arvind Narrain will attend the next global convening on Decriminalization to be held in the Barbados in July. This follows the convening that was held in Namibia in 2017.

International Dialogue: new dates

“Rising Through the Challenge: documenting and analysing best practices for advancing human rights related to sexual orientation, gender identity or expression and sex characteristics (SOGIESC) using the tools of international law, domestic litigation, and apology/reparation.”

 In our last e-bulletin, we announced our next International Dialogue would be in July 2019. In order to secure the important participation of key experts and ensure extra time for selection of key best practice narratives that will form a publication, we have now confirmed new dates of December 9-12th in Delhi, India. This is a partnership between ARC International and O.P. Jindal Global University. This International Dialogue aims to provide a space to reflect on and analyse the ways in law, social transformation and the struggle for dignity and justice are linked. Beyond that, it aims to document and publish these reflections so that they may be shared and utilized by a broad range of stakeholders.