Joint statements by civil society

There were four important civil society joint statements delivered at the Human Rights Council making the case as to why an independent Expert on SOGI was required from diverse perspectives.

Firstly, there was the joint statement delivered on behalf of 628 civil society organisations from 151 countries around the world.

We, the 628 NGOs listed at the end, call for a SOGI Independent Expert to monitor and document human rights violations, prepare regular reports on issues such as root causes, trans rights, and protection gaps, engage with States from around the world to build awareness of SOGI issues, identify good practices and encourage reforms, help ensure the issues are better integrated throughout the UN system, work to support civil society and NGOs working on these issues, enhance regional and cross-regional collaborations and strengthen attention to the issues at the national, regional and international levels, highlight multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination, and further articulate and increases awareness of these connections, particularly by recognizing that SOGI issues are connected with a broad range of issues including gender equality, class, bodily autonomy, sexual and reproductive health and rights.

The establishment of a dedicated protection mechanism to address SOGI-related human rights violations is a necessary step towards urgently addressing the serious abuses on these grounds in every region of the world. We urge the Human Rights Council to act urgently and establish such a mandate. As UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon affirmed: “The time has come”.[1]

There was a joint statement delivered by RSFL[2]on the question of gender identity.

Each person’s self-defined gender identity is integral to their personality and is one of the most basic aspects of self-determination, dignity and freedom. Too many transgender persons are forced to live with identity documents that do not correspond to their self-defined gender. Opening a bank account, applying for a job, boarding a plane, or lodging a harassment complaint can become a repeated source of harassment, unfounded suspicion, and even violence.

However, many States in all regions require the individual to give up one or more human rights to gain another for the protection of private life. Requirements may include diagnosis of a mental disorder, sex reassignment surgery, forced sterilization or hormonal therapy, and being single or divorced. These violate a person’s dignity, right to form a family and right to be free from degrading and inhumane treatment.

The creation of an independent expert mandate on sexual orientation and gender identity would raise awareness and bring greater understanding of these issues. It would also be a platform to share best practices and provide technical assistance to States in ensuring human rights based laws, policies and procedures on the legal gender recognition of all persons.

There was a statement from NGOs in the LAC region commending the leadership of the LAC 7 delivered by COC Netherlands and others.

Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Chile, Mexico and Uruguay have presented before this Council a historic resolution recognizing the discrimination and violence against persons on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity and support the creation of an Independent Expert. These seven states have the support of the voices of 140 NGO’s from 25 countries in the Latin American and Caribbean region. We would like to state with joy that we are not alone and civil society in more than 130 countries support this call.

Finally, there was a statement from Mantiqitna Network, PAN Africa ILGA and ARC International.

In Africa some 36 countries maintain laws that criminalise homosexuality. We call for the immediate decriminalization of homosexuality, including a review of all legislation which could result in the discrimination, prosecution and punishment of people solely for their sexual orientation or gender identity. Where these laws have been scrapped and repealed, we urge leaders to ensure adequate follow up legislation such as anti-discriminatory laws to ensure full human rights of all its citizens- without exception.

We are proudly African and we are proudly LGBTI. We want our governments to acknowledge the reality that LGBT people exist and suffer brutal violations of human rights. It would be in keeping with the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights for African countries to vote for the resolution at the Human Rights Council establishing an Independent expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender identity.

The four statements sought to make four separate but related points. Firstly, the fact that discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity is an issue of global significance and hence needs to be addressed. Secondly, that Latin American NGOs stand with the LAC 7’s advocacy of the resolution. Thirdly, from the African civil society perspective, the passing of the resolution would be in keeping with African Charter on Peoples and Human Rights. The final point was the fact that the passing of the resolution would enormously benefit advocacy around gender identity issues. As such, a compelling case for the passing of the resolution emerged from a global civil society perspective.

[1]http://arc-international.net/global-advocacy/human-rights-council/32nd-session-of-the-human-rights-council/628-ngos-from-151-countries-call-for-a-sogi-independent-expert-at-the-un/

[2]  The other cosponsors were Human Rights Law Centre, ILGA, International Humanist and Ethical Union, International Federation for Human Rights Leagues, LGBT Denmark and Lesbian and Gay Federation in Germany, LSVD