The Intersection of Death Penalty with LGBTI Rights at the 36th Session of the Human Rights Council

Arvind Narrain
Geneva Director, ARC International


The appointment of the first Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in the 32nd session of the Human Rights Council marked an important milestone in the LGBTI struggle. However, the distance yet to be travelled was brought home in a stark fashion in the 36th session of the Human Rights Council in the debate around the death penalty. The death penalty is currently on the statute books for consensual same sex conduct in thirteen states (or parts of). The states are Sudan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, 12 northern states in Nigeria, Southern parts of Somalia, Mauritania, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Qatar, UAE and ISIS held territories in Iraq and Syria.[1] This pressing issue was sought to be tackled through Resolution 36/17 which was titled ‘The question of the death penalty’. What as unique about Resolution 36/17 was that it did not see the death penalty for same sex conduct as an egregious violation to be dealt with separately but rather saw the death penalty for same sex conduct as a part of a wider continuum of the unjust imposition of the death penalty. It thus signposted the death penalty as an issue which intersected with multiple forms of marginalization and required an intersectional approach.

Understanding Resolution 36/17 of 2017 on ‘The question of the death penalty’

The Amendment Strategy

Analysing the vote on Resolution 36/17

Understanding the ‘Yes vote’

Understanding the ‘No vote’

The USA’s Vote

Japan’s vote  

India’s vote  

Conclusion: Towards an intersectional approach?  

Download full report here.

[1] Aengus Carroll, State Sponsored Homophobia 2016: A world survey of sexual orientation laws: Criminalisation, protection and recognition, Geneva, ILGA, 2016. p.37.