“I commend your bravery. Those who work on issues of sexual orientation and gender identity are often the target of harassment, persecution and violence – by both State officials and private groups and individuals, including violent extremists. You and your organizations are frequently isolated voices reporting gross violations of human rights that are too often ignored not only by the authorities but by mainstream human rights organizations too. The toll of threats and attacks is a heavy personal and institutional burden”.
These were some of the words sent by United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein for the opening of the “International Dialogue on the Intersections of culture/tradition with human rights related to gender and sexuality”, co-organized by ARC International and MantiQitna.
International dialogue aims at discussing experiences of activists working to strengthen human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons in hostile contexts and share common intersections between culture and traditions with gender identity and sexual orientation. It also seeks to share experiences and knowledge towards advocating human rights in that field.
In this sense, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein acknowledged the bravery of human rights defenders and stressed that thanks to their work, “awareness is growing of the violence and discrimination directed at LGBT and intersex people in [Middle East and North Africa] region and around the world. You have helped to expose a pattern of serious and widespread human rights abuses, including specific kinds of violations experienced by lesbian and bisexual women, by trans persons, by gay and bisexual men and by intersex persons”.
He also remembered that 12 United Nations agencies outlined a series of steps when he said “States should take towards this end, and offered our support. In our joint statement we affirmed that human rights are universal and that cultural, religious and moral practices and beliefs and social attitudes cannot be invoked to justify human rights violations against any group, including LGBT and intersex people”.
During the meeting participants from all over the world are sharing interesting experiences in advancing the recognition for human rights on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity as well as the threats human rights defenders are exposed to when working for these issues.
United Nations mechanisms are useful spaces to work with in order to achieve equal rights for members of the LGBT and intersex community.