Geneva, 8 – 26 September 2014
Geneva, September 26, 2014
The United Nations Human Rights Council resolution on combatting violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity adopted today is a critically important achievement for upholding the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, said 25 human rights groups. The resolution follows up on the resolution adopted three years ago in June 2011, when the Council passed the first ever UN resolution on human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
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16:30 – 18:30 ARC International, Article 19, International Service for Human Rights
Universality of Human Rights (Room XXIV)
17:00 – 18:30 International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA)
LGBTI persons and human rights (Room XXIV)
15:00 – 17:00 ARC International
Human Rights of LGBTI persons (Room XXV)
Overview of the session
The 27th session of the Human Rights Council (HRC or “the Council”) took place from 8-26 September 2014 at the United Nations in Geneva.
The key development at the session was the adoption of the second United Nations resolution on “Human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity” (A/HRC/27/32). Tabled by Chile, Uruguay, Brazil and Colombia, and cosponsored by 46 additional States, the resolution requests the High Commissioner for Human Rights to update the 2012 study on violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity (A/HRC/19/41), with a view to sharing good practices and ways to overcome violence and discrimination. It 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. The updated report is due to be presented to the HRC at its 29th session in June 2015.
The Council voted down 7 hostile amendments to the resolution which sought to strip the title and text of all SOGI references, to be replaced by the general listing of grounds for protection from discrimination in the UDHR, and to introduce a new paragraph in the text invoking cultural relativity and state sovereignty in the protection of human rights. The amendments were tabled by Djibouti, Egypt, Malaysia, Nigeria, South Sudan, Uganda, and the United Arab Emirates.
After the amendments had been rejected, the resolution was adopted by the Council by a vote of 25 in favour, 14 against, and 7 abstentions, with support from all regions and an increased base of support since the HRC’s first resolution on the issues adopted in 2011. This is the first time a SOGI vote at the HRC has been adopted by an absolute majority.
The Council interacted for the first time with the new High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mr. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. In his inaugural statement to the Council, the High Commissioner stressed that there can be no justification ever, for the degrading, the debasing or the exploitation of other human beings on the basis of gender or sexual orientation.
As usual the Council undertook general debates and engaged in interactive dialogues on a number of issues. During the General Debate under Agenda Items 2&3, the South African Human Rights Commission, speaking in a joint statement with 22 A-status accredited national human rights institutions, expressed particular concern at the number of human rights violations against people based on gender identity or sexual orientation
A total of ten panel discussions were held, including on the right to privacy in the digital age, protection of the family, and the annual discussion on the integration of a gender perspective.
Working group reports from the 18th session of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) were adopted by the Council for the following 14 countries: Norway, Albania, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Portugal, Bhutan, Dominica, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Brunei Darussalam, Costa Rica, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Qatar, Nicaragua.
The Council adopted a total of 32 resolutions during the session, including on disappearances, the right to safe drinking water and sanitation, preventable maternal mortality and morbidity, eliminating female genital mutilation, and civil society space. A full list of resolutions adopted can be found at the end of this report.
There was strong civil society engagement throughout the session, both in Geneva and in capitals. ARC and ILGA each held side events on SOGI issues, and ARC, ISHR and Article 19 organised a panel discussion on the theme of traditional values and the universality of human rights.
General Debate following the High Commissioner’s update
This was Mr. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein’s first presentation to the Human Rights Council in his new capacity as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Under Navi Pillay, the OHCHR played an active role in calling for an end to violence, discrimination and criminalisation based on sexual orientation and gender identity. As part of an anti-discrimination campaign, the OHCHR 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 launched a global public education campaign (“Free and Equal”) for LGBT equality (www.unfe.org). More information on the OHCHR work on SOGI issues can be found at: www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Discrimination/Pages/LGBT.aspx .
In his inaugural statement Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein stressed that “there is no justification ever, for the degrading, the debasing or the exploitation of other human beings – on whatever basis: nationality, race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability, age or caste.”
The full text of his opening statement is available at http://bit.ly/1xT8J6N.
Reports to the Council
Various reports to this session of the Council addressed human rights violations based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Full details are provided in Annex I of our advocacy report. For example:
The Secretary General, in his report on the question of the death penalty, noted that in some countries the death penalty was applied for numerous offense including consensual sexual acts, adultery, sodomy and extramarital sexual relations. The SG stated that “Laws criminalizing actual or purported engagement by adults in consensual sexual relations, including extramarital sex and premarital sex, contravene international human rights law and standards”;
The OHCHR report on factors that impede equal political participation stresses that LGBTI people are among those most at risk of discrimination, unequal treatment, harassment and restrictions of the rights to public and political participation;
The Working Group on arbitrary detention raised the lack of a mechanism to address situations where there is sufficiently reliable information that the execution of an order of arrest will result in arbitrary depravation of liberty. The Working Group was concerned about situations where an imminent arrest would constitute a violation of international law prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation or other status;
The Special Rapporteur on safe drinking water and sanitation once again raised the issue of LGBTI individuals facing violence in accessing water and sanitation, linked to deeply entrenched stigmatisation;
The Advisory Committee, in its progress report on the promotion and protection of human rights in post-disaster and post-conflict situations, highlights the “need to devote specific attention to the LGBT population, particularly in post-disaster and post-conflict situations”. The Advisory Committee states that “stigmatization and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation increase gender-based violence in post-conflict and post-disaster situations, negatively affecting LGBT persons in the provision of food assistance, shelters and humanitarian aid”;
The Communications report of Special Procedures also outlines cases of discriminatory laws, violent attacks, torture, death threats, arbitrary detention, physical and sexual violence in detention because of the victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.
UPR report adoptions – item 6
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 and responses given is outlined in our report of the session.
On the morning of 15th September, the Council held a panel discussion on the protection of the family and its members, following polarised negotiations at the 26th session of the HRC which saw some States advocating the exclusion of language on diverse family forms, and the inclusion of restrictive definitions of family.
On the afternoon of the 15th, the Council held the annual discussion on the integration of a gender perspective. This was an important discussion, focused on the integration of a gender perspective into the country-focused work of the Human Rights Council, including its geographic special procedures, country-specific reports by thematic procedures, and the establishment and reports of Commissions of Inquiries and Fact-Finding Missions.
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