Six months have passed since the last edition of our e-bulletin, and we have much to report on, including two sessions of the Human Rights Council and UPR, the CSW, a plethora of NGO and government-led conferences across the globe, and a video to boot. We’ll also give you a snapshot of events in the months to come. Thanks as always for reading!
ARC INTERNATIONAL’S 10 YEAR ANNIVERSARY!
July 8th 2013 marked 10 years since John and Kim brought ARC into the world. Since its inception, ARC has played a significant role in facilitating strategic planning around SOGI issues internationally, and enhancing access to UN mechanisms. Some of our proudest achievements include our role in the development of the Yogyakarta Principles (and the subsequent Activist’s Guide), our numerous International Dialogues, the creation of the SOGI listserv which is now host to over 900 subscribers from across the globe, and of course our continued work to ensure that UN mechanisms address human rights issues relating to SOGI, and to make them more accessible to activities on the ground. In August, the ARC team will take a week-long retreat to engage in collective brain-storming and reflection on improving and strengthening our role as a mini-organisation on the international playing field. We will also engage with other NGOs and listserv members to gather feedback on our evolving work and contributions, and on how we can continue to ensure that our objectives and activities are as relevant, collaborative and useful as possible to the broader community.
“THE WORLD WE WANT”: GLOBAL CONSULTATION ON ADDRESSING INEQUALITIES IN THE POST-2015 DEVELOPMENT AGENDA
Following ARC’s co-moderation with the OHCHR of an online discussion forum on development and the rights of LGBTI People, John Fisher was invited to participate in a leadership meeting in Copenhagen, where the results of 10 discussion streams relating to development and inequalities were discussed during a high-level roundtable dialogue session. Opened by the Crown Princess of Denmark, and attended by Government Ministers from all regions, heads of UN Agencies, and civil society representatives, the meeting was an opportunity to underline the importance of addressing structural inequalities and social exclusion as part of the post-2015 development agenda.
EAST AND HORN OF AFRICA HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS PROJECT – Strategic Roundtable
In late February, ARC Co-Directors were invited to partner with the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (EHAHRDP) and the Katiba Institute on a Strategic Roundtable for LGBTI Rights Defenders. Kim and John delivered a keynote speech on the “International Legal Framework for LGBTI Rights – Opportunities and Ongoing Actions”, and also facilitated a sub-regional consultation on SOGI processes at the UN Human Rights Council with 25 human rights defenders from the region. An Envisioning Project video crew from Kenya also documented the process and recorded interviews with defenders from the region.
57TH SESSION OF THE COMMISSION ON THE STATUS OF WOMEN
The 57th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) took place at the UN in New York from 4 to 15 March 2013. A Priority Theme was the “Elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls”. Co-director, Kim Vance, spoke during a parallel event on “Killings and Violence against Women based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity” and co-organized the event with COC Netherlands, AWID, International Planned Parenthood Federation, Transgender Europe, Human Rights Watch, Astraea, and the CWGL. ARC also co-sponsored with IGLHRC an event to provide a unique opportunity to articulate specific LBT women’s input into the unfolding Human Rights Council regional meetings processes leading to the Oslo conference. An Envisioning project video crew from Canada and St. Lucia was also present to film these events and record individual interviews with a number of human rights defenders. ARC also participated in LBT Caucus meetings following SOGI and sexual rights language proposed in the agreed conclusions, and joined a statement from the caucus delivered during general discussion at the CSW by Noelene Nabulivou,? Diverse Voices and Action for Equality, Fiji. The statement was endorsed by 89 organisations from 48 countries. Noelene’s presentation is available on YouTube: http://youtu.be/e3ctjkdql5E
22ND SESSION OF THE HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL
High Level Segment
The 22nd session of the HRC took place from 25 February to 22 March 2013. The March session of the Council is always a week longer than June and September sessions, with the first week being dedicated to the High Level Segment (HLS), where ministers, heads of State and other dignitaries give updates on their domestic human rights situations, and outline their priority issues for the HRC. This HLS also featured a keynote statement by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, focusing on the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the VDPA, in which she expressed concern about persecution of people based on SOGI. High level dignitaries from the Netherlands, South Africa, Argentina, Norway, France, the US, Croatia, Ireland, Belgium and Denmark expressed support for promoting and protecting the rights of LGBT persons, whilst representatives from Russia, the Holy See and Zimbabwe all made statements to justify restriction of rights relating to SOGI. The Botswana ambassador, meanwhile, stated that “a lot needed to be done” on SOGI and that “Botswana continued to engage in dialogue and public consultation on these issues and did not condone acts of violence against anybody”.
General Debates and Interactive Dialogues
Human rights issues relating to SOGI were raised throughout the session, including in interactive dialogues with the High Commissioner for Human Rights and Special Procedures, and during general debates. In particular, the Special Rapporteur on torture paid particular attention to LGBTI persons in his report, and 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 called upon States to outlaw forced or coerced sterilization in all circumstances and provide special protection to individuals belonging to marginalized groups.
Another notable reference was made by the Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran, who in turning to the question of cultural relativism, stated that “the right to life was sacred and applied to everybody regardless of their sexual orientation”.
Report on “traditional values”
The report of the HRC’s Advisory Committee on “traditional values” was finally submitted to the Council after being postponed from the previous session. The report noted that “perceptions of what constituted ‘traditional values’ were highly subjective and dependent on societal power structures”, and that “some practices and attitudes at odds with human dignity were derived from traditional values”. It further stated that “those who benefit most from the status quo are more likely to appeal to tradition to maintain power and privilege, and also to speak on behalf of tradition, while those most marginalised and disenfranchised have the most to lose from a traditional values approach to human rights”. The report was referenced heavily with jurisprudence and information from treaty bodies, international and regional human rights instruments, and analysis from scholars in various regions, and was unambiguous that international law trumps traditional values when it comes to arguments of cultural relativity.
ARC was pleased to co-organise a side event on “traditional values” in partnership with the ICJ, ISHR, ILGA Europe, Freedom House, the SRI, Russian LGBT Network and COC Netherlands. The event was well attended by States and NGOs, and the expert panellists engaged representatives of the Russian government delegation in heated debate.
UPR report adoptions
During this session, the Council adopted the UPR reports of Ghana, Ukraine, Guatemala, Benin, Republic of Korea, Switzerland, Pakistan, Zambia, Japan, Peru and Sri Lanka. 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;
- Ukraine rejected recommendations to withdraw its draft legislation criminalising the promotion of homosexuality, refrain from adopting any other legislation that restricts freedom of expression, and to adopt a comprehensive anti-discrimination law that addresses the worrying trend of incidents based on gender, sexual orientation, racial and ethnic discrimination;
- 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 as a guide to assist in policy development.
Resolution on protection of the family
Finally, just before the Council’s resolution tabling deadline, a cross-regional group of nine States (Bangladesh, Egypt, Mauritania, Morocco, Qatar, Russian Federation, Tunisia, Uganda and Zimbabwe) tabled a draft resolution (A/HRC/22/L.25) entitled “Protection of the Family”. The resolution was a clear ploy to cement a narrow conception of the family as a subject of human rights protection in and of itself, with the lead sponsors refusing to include proposed language acknowledging that various forms of the family exist, and that families could also be sites of human rights violations. The initiative could be used to stem further efforts to oppose the protection and promotion of sexual and reproductive rights, and in particular issues of sexual orientation and gender identity, abortion, adolescents’ access to sexual and reproductive health services and comprehensive sexuality education. All of these issues have been highly contested in the context of recent and prior negotiations at the Council. Due to pushback from many concerned States on both procedural and substantive grounds, the resolution was deferred to a future session. It is as yet unclear if and when the sponsors intend to re-table the text.
REGIONAL SEMINARS ON HUMAN RIGHTS, SEXUAL ORIENTATION AND GENDER IDENTITY
Regional seminars on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity took place in Nepal, France and Brazil in March and April 2013, as part of a process initiated by South Africa to build greater understanding of the specific human rights challenges in each region, and to discuss how these challenges may best be overcome. in these seminars, including through a series of NGO pre-meetings. The results of the regional seminars fed into a concluding conference in Oslo in mid-April. Read more.
OSLO CONFERENCE ON HUMAN RIGHTS, SEXUAL ORIENTATION AND GENDER IDENTITY
The Oslo Conference on Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity took place from 15-16 April 2013. Co-hosted by Norway and South Africa, the conference built upon the regional processes of the previous two months and brought together more than 200 participants from 84 countries. Packed with plenary sessions, debates, workshops, official receptions, and strategy sessions, the conference concluded with presentation of a Co-Chairs’ Summary of Conclusions.
The Summary of Conclusions outlined the background and legal framework, identified some of the many human rights violations faced on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as some positive developments and recommendations for next steps at the national, regional and international levels.
ILGA ASIA CONFERENCE
Sheherezade was pleased to be invited to facilitate a series of training workshops on engaging with the UN human rights mechanisms at the 5th ILGA Asia conference which took place in Bangkok from 29 to 31 March 2013. Additionally, Sheherezade and Sunil Pant (Blue Diamond Society, Nepal) held an open session to provide information and debrief on the Asia-Pacific Regional Seminar on human rights and SOGI which concluded in Kathmandu the previous week. All workshops were well attended by dedicated and inspiring activists from across the region, who were keen to engage further in international advocacy.
WORLD HEALTH ORGANISATION SEMINAR ON DEPATHOLOGISATION
On 25 April, John attended the WHO seminar on “Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation in WHO’s International Classification of Diseases.” The presenters identified the importance of depathologising gender identity, while recognising that transgender persons have legitimate health needs that must be addressed.
It was noteworthy that the organising efforts of GATE (Global Action for Trans* Equality) were specifically praised as a “model of involvement” that had provided “outstanding feedback”, and the Yogyakarta Principles were also cited in support of depathologisation. The WHO indicated that it would be continuing consultations, including with community stakeholders.
Health issues relating to sexual orientation and gender identity were also heated topics for discussion at this year’s meeting of the Executive Board of the World Health Assembly.
15th and 16TH SESSIONS OF THE UNIVERSAL PERIODIC REVIEW
The 15th UPR session took place from 21 January to 1 February 2013. Countries under review included France, Tonga, Romania, Mali, Botswana, Bahamas, Burundi, Luxembourg, Barbados, Montenegro, United Arab Emirates, Liechtenstein, and Serbia. Israel was also due to be reviewed at the session, but failed to appear before the Working Group. The Human Rights Council adopted a decision agreeing to defer Israel’s review to the 17th session of the UPR, at the latest. Read more at http://www.upr-info.org/+Israel-absent-from-its-own-UPR+.html
Download our advocacy document: UPR15 – suggested recommendations
Download our report of the session: Report of UPR 15th session
The 16th UPR session took place from 22 April to 3 May 2013. Countries under review included Turkmenistan, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Colombia, Uzbekistan, Tuvalu, Germany, Djibouti, Canada, Bangladesh, Russian Federation, Azerbaijan, Cameroon and Cuba.
Download a report of the session: UPR16 SOGI Report
Download our advocacy document: UPR 16 – suggested recommendations
PANEL ON DIVERSITY IN LEADERSHIP
John was pleased to be invited to participate in a panel at the Graduate Institute in Geneva, titled “Diversity in Leadership”. Panellists had the opportunity to share challenges, opportunities and experiences in advancing sexual orientation and gender identity issues in the international sector. The graduate students attending expressed strong interest in the differing responses to these issues by a range of international stakeholders, including NGOs, UN agencies and government delegations.
ARC’S APPLICATION FOR ECOSOC STATUS
ARC’s ECOSOC application was considered and deferred for the first time by the Committee on NGOs during its resumed session at the end of May. We received a number of questions from the body, several of which were political in nature. For example, Morocco asked why ARC believed that sexual orientation should be claimed as a right, and Russia expressed its concern for the protecting the rights of those who defend traditional values stating that these individuals were “under attack”. ARC was asked if it would be prepared to make a statement that the protection of LGBT people would not undermine the rights of those with traditional values, specifically naming C-FAM as an example of an organisation whose rights were supposedly threatened. We would like to extend our sincere thanks to ISHR colleagues in New York for helping us in the process, and particularly to Cynthia Rothschild who represented ARC at the Committee on NGOs, as well as everyone else who sent us messages of support and solidarity. We would also like to send warm congratulations to the Australian Lesbian Medical Association and HOSI-Wien, two organisations working on SOGI issues that were finally recommended for consultative status by the Committee on NGOs!
4TH REGIONAL CHANGING FACES, CHANGING SPACES CONFERENCE (CFCS), KENYA
On May 29-31, ARC Co-Director, Kim Vance, was invited to Naivasha, Kenya, to deliver a presentation about the Human Rights Council, in particular how to engage the process and link local work to the HRC mechanisms and vice versa. It was also a chance to network with activists, particularly in East Africa, and learn about the inspiring work of UHAI and coalitions of LGBTI activists and sex worker rights advocates.
23RD SESSION OF THE HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL
NGO representatives from all regions worked hard during the session to integrate SOGI issues throughout the Council agenda, including in general debate with the High Commissioner, interactive dialogue with the Special Procedures on health, extrajudicial executions, peaceful assembly and association, education, cultural rights, discrimination against women, freedom of expression, violence against women, and racism. Country-specific concerns (eg on Russia, Ukraine and Turkey) were also addressed.
UPR report adoptions
The Council also adopted the UPR reports of France, Tonga, Romania, Mali, Botswana, Bahamas, Burundi, Luxembourg, Barbados, Montenegro, United Arab Emirates, Liechtenstein and Serbia. Relevant NGO statements were made at the report adoptions of Botswana, Burundi, Montenegro, Romania and Serbia. Some UPR outcomes of note include:
- Romania accepted recommendations to intensify training for State officials on SOGI issues and adequately address LGBT-related acts of discrimination;
- Botswana did not accept a recommendation to decriminalise same-sex conduct noting that Botswana “has not reached a stage” at which it can accept same-sex activities, and that it will be necessary to conduct educational campaigns so that “when the laws are changed”, people will be carried along;
- Barbados accepted a recommendation to protect all human rights, including those of LGBT people, but rejected specific recommendations on SOGI-related violence, discrimination and decriminalisation;
- Montenegro accepted a recommendation to establish effective mechanisms of dialogue with human rights defenders in the field of sexual minorities; and
- Serbia accepted a recommendation to respond effectively to discrimination and violence against LGBT persons and ensure their safety during public events.
Next steps proposed by South Africa
This session also marked the second anniversary of the resolution presented in June 2011 by South Africa on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity, and many had thought that South Africa might present a follow-up resolution, building upon the recent regional seminars, to ensure continued attention by the Council to human rights violations on these grounds. At the end of the first week, however, South Africa called a meeting of States and NGOs, at which it indicated that it was instead proposing a regional seminar in Africa on SOGI issues (since State-led regional meetings had taken place in Kathmandu, Paris and Brasilia, prior to the mid-April concluding conference in Oslo, but no State had offered to host a regional seminar in Africa as part of that process), followed by an international convening in Geneva. Many States and NGOs at the meeting indicated that continued dialogue and outreach is not inconsistent with the UN taking steps through a resolution to give continued attention to human rights violations on these grounds.
A more detailed report of the session, and copies of State and NGO statements may be found here.
“THE TIME HAS COME” – A NEW VIDEO DOCUMENTARY
The 23rd HRC session saw a première screening of “The Time has Come”, a video documentary produced by ARC International. ARC particularly wishes to thank Envisioning Global LGBT Human Rights for their contributions to this 30-minute documentary which is available here and may be shared and screened broadly. The first part of the video was presented at a packed side event hosted by ARC and ILGA, cosponsored by South Africa, Norway, Poland, France and Brazil, and featuring panel presentations by human rights defenders from diverse regions. The documentary will be aired in full at the next Council session in September. We are currently producing versions with Spanish and French subtitles, and are also open to collaborations regarding other-language versions of the video.
24th session of the Human Rights Council
The next Council session will take place from 9 to 27 September 2013, and will provide the usual in terms of interactive dialogues with Special Rapporteurs, general debates and UPR report adoptions. We are also expecting a new resolution on ‘traditional values’ to be tabled by the Russian Federation, as well as the presentation of the OHCHR report on “best practices in the application of traditional values while promoting and protecting human rights and upholding human dignity”.
UPR deadlines – 19th session
The deadline for NGO submissions to the 19th UPR session is 1st September 2013 for 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 and Nicaragua.
Stakeholders’ submissions should be sent through the new online system, available at: http://uprdoc.ohchr.org. Should you encounter technical problems using the new system, please also send your contribution through the email address: firstname.lastname@example.org, with a copy to email@example.com so we can better support your recommendations in our advocacy efforts.
More information on the UPR, including ARC’s Guide to the UPR for SOGI activists, can be found at http://arc-international.net/global-advocacy/universal-periodic-review
Caribbean Women and Sexual Diversity Conference (Curaçao)
In 2012, the International Dialogue and Training on LGBT Human Rights was hosted in Saint Lucia. The first of its kind to be staged in the Caribbean, it recorded the highest number of lesbian and bisexual women from around the region in one space. A women’s caucus was organised which highlighted the need for further dialogue. United and Strong, with support from ARC International, took the decision to organize a follow-up conference, and during consultation with various stakeholders, it came to light that the Fundashon Orguyo Korsou/Curaçao Pride Foundation (FOKO) was also planning toward the same vision. Thus began a partnership to organize the upcoming conference in September 2013 in Curaçao.
Watch this space!
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8. July 2013