22nd session

Geneva, 25 February – 22 March 2013

UN Links

Annotations to the agenda (A/HRC/22/1): ArabicChineseEnglishFrenchRussianSpanish
Corrigendum to annotations (A/HRC/22/Corr.1): English only
Programme of Work for Human Rights Council 22nd session (provisional; subject to change): English and French
List of reports for the 22nd session of the Human Rights Council
Annual calendar of thematic resolutions (by HRC session)
List of themes and countries to be discussed at 22nd session (per reports submitted)
NGO parallel events calendar

Advocacy documents

Summary and Overview:

Opportunities to raise awareness of human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity at the 22nd session of the Human Rights aCouncil include:

High level and general segment statements:

States were encouraged to include SOGI in their high-level interventions:

  • affirm support for the resolution on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity, presented by South Africa and adopted by the Council at its 17th session, and welcome the panel discussion on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity, which took place last March;
  • underline the principles of universality and non-discrimination, and emphasise that the Council’s effectiveness in advancing its mandate will be measured by the extent to which it addresses the rights of the most marginalised;
  • acknowledge the leadership of the Secretary General and High Commissioner on these issues, and reiterate their call for an end to violence and discrimination against LGBT people;
  • express support for the Yogyakarta Principles on the application of international human rights law in relation to sexual orientation and gender identity, and commend the Principles to the attention of States and the Council;
  • note that human rights violations on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity continue to occur in all regions of the world, welcome the regional seminars on SOGI-related violence and discrimination currently taking place, and urge the Council to address these issues in an ongoing systematic way;
  • endorse/pledge to implement the recommendations made in the High Commissioner’s study on violence, and discriminatory laws and practices based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

In addition, the High-level segment serves as an opportunity for Foreign Ministers and other high-ranking officials to meet bilaterally with their counterparts in other States or regions. This affords a key opportunity for outreach to build cross-regional support for the panel discussion on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity.  It would also be appropriate for Foreign Ministers to thank the High Commissioner for her important work in this area, and encourage her to raise the study on sexual orientation and gender identity in her meetings with key States.

Interactive Dialogue with the High Commissioner:

The High Commissioner has played an active role in calling for an end to violence, discrimination and criminalisation based on sexual orientation and gender identity over recent months. As part of an anti-discrimination campaign, the OHCHR has committed to working with States, national human rights institutions and civil society to achieve progress towards the worldwide decriminalization of homosexuality and further measures to protect people from violence and discrimination on grounds of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The OHCHR produced a video for the International Day against Homophobia (May 17). In December 2011 the OHCHR published a report on violence and related human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity, as requested by HRC resolution 17/19. More information…

In addition, the High Commissioner’s Annual Report brings specific attention to the work of her Office in addressing human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity.  As noted in the High Commissioner’s Annual Report (see Annex I of our advocacy document):

“Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity continues to affect millions of people in all regions. … Continued dialogue and reporting are needed to overcome divisions of opinion among States and to mobilize support for measures, including the repeal of discriminatory laws, the prohibition of discriminatory practices and action to counter violence.”

Reports to the Council

Various reports to this session of the Council address human rights violations based on sexual orientation or gender identity.  Full details are provided in Annex I. In particular:

  • The Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders recommended that Member States “establish a focal point or an entity dedicated to human rights defenders with specific attention to groups of defenders at particular risk such as women defenders and those working for women’s rights and gender issues; those working on the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities”.The Special Rapporteur’s report to the GA also highlighted concerns with laws that criminalise and otherwise impede the work of human rights defenders. This is a growing concern in relation to LGBT human rights defenders, who are facing increased backlash as a result of hostile new legislative initiatives (e.g, the Bill currently under consideration in Russia prohibiting awareness and education-raising measures related to sexual orientation and gender identity under the guise of banning “homosexual propaganda”).
  • The Special Rapporteur on torture noted that “There is an abundance of accounts and testimonies of persons being denied medical treatment, subjected to verbal abuse and public humiliation, psychiatric evaluation, a variety of forced procedures such as involuntary sterilization of “children born with atypical sex characteristics”, State-sponsored forcible anal examinations for the prosecution of suspected homosexual activities, and invasive virginity examinations conducted by health-care providers, hormone therapy and genital- normalizing surgeries under the guise of so called ‘reparative therapies’”. With regards to LGBTI persons, the Special Rapporteur called upon all States:“to repeal any law allowing intrusive and irreversible treatments, including forced genital-normalizing surgery, involuntary sterilization, unethical experimentation, medical display, “reparative therapies” or “conversion therapies”, when enforced or administered without the free and informed consent of the person concerned.

    He also calls upon them to outlaw forced or coerced sterilization in all circumstances and provide special protection to individuals belonging to marginalized groups.

General statements – items 3, 4 and 5:

There will be opportunity for statements during general debate, particularly under item 3 (promotion and protection of all human rights), item 4 (Human rights situations that require the Council’s attention) – which might be used to address country situations of particular concern.

Statements by regional or cross-regional groupings might reference the Human Rights Council panel debate on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity (HRC19), look forward to working with States from all regions in building on the outcomes of the panel, and call for constructive outreach and dialogue with a view to enhancing the Council’s capacity to fulfil its mandate by promoting and protecting human rights for all people without distinction.

Statements under Item 5 might reference the report of the Advisory Committee on traditional values (A/HRC/22/71). The study brings attention to some of the negative impacts of traditional values on human rights:

“There is no agreed definition of the term ‘traditional values of humankind’. No such definition resulted from the discussions held by the Human Rights Council or the Advisory Committee. … traditions are so varied and complex that, while some traditions comply with human rights norms and contribute to their promotion and protection, others undermine or are in conflict with them.” (paras.7 & 11, A/HRC/22/71)

“[T]raditional attitudes by which women are regarded as subordinate to men or as having stereotyped roles perpetuate widespread practices involving violence or coercion, such as family violence and abuse, forced marriage, dowry deaths, acid attacks and female circumcision.” (para.40, A/HRC/22/71)

Women human rights defenders were more “at risk of suffering certain forms of violence and other violations, prejudice, exclusion and repudiation than their male counterparts, owing to the fact that women defenders were perceived as challenged accepted socio-cultural norms, traditions, perceptions and stereotypes” (para.41, A/HRC/22/71)

“[V]iolations justified by traditional, cultural or religious values are often targeted against minority or disenfranchised groups […] the Special Rapporteur on indigenous peoples observed that the master-slave relationships persisting in one country reflected the structural inequalities that result from deeply engrained discriminatory attitudes about indigenous peoples” (para.43, A/HRC/22/71)

20th Anniversary of the VDPA – high-level panel and item 8

The 20th Anniversary of the VDPA provides an opportunity to reaffirm the fundamental principles of universality and non-discrimination – both during the high-level panel on the VDPA under item 8 (Follow-up and implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action).

The VDPA also emphasizes (in para. 5) that “while the significance of national and regional particularities and various historical, cultural and religious backgrounds must be borne in mind, it is the duty of States, regardless of their political, economic and cultural systems, to promote and protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms” – a key framing of the issues in the light of current discussions relating to “traditional values”.

A short opinion piece by ARC Co-Director John Fisher on the application of the VDPA to LGBT people can be found in an online collection of perspectives on the VDPA compiled by ISHR.

UPR report adoptions – item 6 (see Annex II of our advocacy document):

The UPR report adoption process affords an opportunity to commend those States which have responded favourably to relevant recommendations, and to encourage States who have not to address these issues more positively in future.

Many relevant recommendations relating to sexual orientation and gender identity issues were raised during the UPR of those States whose reports are due to be adopted. A full list of UPR recommendations for the States under review is attached as Annex II. In particular:

  • Guatemala accepted a recommendation to consider the possibility of strengthening the necessary measures for the protection and integration of LGBT persons;
  • Zambia accepted a recommendation to ensure thorough and impartial investigation into all allegations of attacks and threats against individuals targeted because of their sexual orientation or gender identity;
  • Peru agreed to repeal penal sanctions on homosexuality in the police force; to consider enacting legislation that addresses crimes based on sexual orientation; and to consider applying the Yogyakarta Principles on the Application of International Human Rights Law in relation to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity as a guide to assist in policy development.