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UN High Commissioner for Human Rights issues historic report on sexual orientation, gender identity
From news releases, posted Dec. 15, 2011
2011-12-21

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The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission ( IGLHRC ) welcomes today's release of the first-ever United Nations ( UN ) report on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity, titled, "Discriminatory laws and practices and acts of violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity, A.HRC.19.41." The report is also available in Spanish, Russian, and Arabic.

The report, published by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navanethem Pillay, is the result of a Human Rights Council resolution passed on June 17, 2011. The resolution, which was presented by South Africa, received support from a majority of the members of the Human Rights Council, including countries from all UN regions. The report documents widespread discrimination and violence faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender ( LGBT ) people worldwide and calls upon States to apply the international legal framework to end these human rights violations.

Among its most important recommendations is the report's call for the decriminalization of same-sex relations between consenting adults. It also notes the particular experiences of lesbians and other women who suffer violence, killings, rape and abuse, often at the hands of family and community. The report includes a call for protection and recognition of the self-identified gender of trans persons.

Jessica Stern, Acting Executive Director of IGLHRC said, "The report is a tribute to all of the activists who have fought for recognition of homophobic violence and transphobic discrimination over decades, often in the face of extreme hostility. It will serve as an invaluable aid to each one of us who seeks to advance LGBT rights — not only at the United Nations but in cities and towns around the world."

Grace Poore, IGLHRC Program Coordinator for Asia and the Pacific Islands said, "I hope that National Human Rights Institutions in Asia and the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission will use the report's findings to more rigorously respect and protect the safety and equality of LGBT persons throughout Asia and the Pacific Islands."

Hossein Alizadeh, IGLHRC Program Coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa said, "I welcome the UN's increasing awareness of LGBT issues, and I believe that this report can be of great assistance as we continue to challenge systematic homophobia and transphobia in the Middle East".

Jabu Pereira, IGLHRC Program Coordinator for Africa said, "The report will send a strong message to those African governments which continue to criminalize lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons under the guise of culture, religion and sovereignty."

Marcelo Ferreyra, IGLHRC Program Coordinator for Latin America and the Caribbean, said "Initiatives such as this report and its precedents at the Organization of American States manifest a clear intention to provide real and concrete solutions to discrimination and violence on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity."

Stern added, "The publication of this report, coinciding with the 63rd anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, reminds us all once again that LGBT rights are human rights and that no person should ever experience discrimination or violence on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Coming at an historic moment for LGBT rights movements, the report illustrates that while full equality has not yet been adequately achieved around the world, there is a growing awareness of the fundamental importance of these issues."

IGLHRC, in solidarity with colleagues and friends around the world, looks forward to the presentation of the report to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, and anticipates the accompanying panel discussion, which will take place March 1, 2012.

The report is already available in English, Spanish, Russian and Arabic; it will become available in Chinese and French in the coming weeks. When the additional translations are available, you may find them by visiting the 19th session of the Human Rights Council: Reports page and referencing report A/HRC/19/41.

For further information or inquiries about the report please contact the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights ( OHCHR ) :

Fred Kirungi ( OHCHR New York ) : kirungi@un.org . Tel. +1 917 367 3431

Rupert Colville ( OHCHR Geneva ) : rcolville@ohchr.org . Tel. +41 22 917 9767

Background

Human Rights Council Resolution 17/19 expressed grave concern at acts of violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and requested the High Commissioner for Human Rights to prepare the report. For a description of the vote and reactions from civil society at the time of this historic resolution, please see: http://www.iglhrc.org/cgi-bin/iowa/article/pressroom/pressrelease/1417.html

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights ( OHCHR ) represents the world's commitment to universal ideals of human dignity. It has a unique mandate from the international community to promote and protect all human rights. The High Commissioner for Human Rights is the principal human rights official of the United Nations. She heads OHCHR and spearheads the United Nations' human rights efforts.

For an explanation of the report, please see a background paper compiled by ARC International

AllOut.Org Applauds UNHCR and South African Government for Leadership on Historic UN Report Documenting LGBT Human Rights Violations Worldwide

AllOut.org and African Human Rights Activists Declare: "Equality Under the Law is a Universal Human Right"

NEW YORK, NY — The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights ( UNHCR ) today released the first-ever U.N. report documenting discriminatory laws, practices and acts of violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. The report gives a sweeping panorama of the status of LGBT rights around the world, and includes an ambitious set of recommendations for U.N. member states to implement.

"Today the United Nations has sent a powerful message to member states around the world, echoing what Hillary Clinton said last week: Gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights," said AllOut.org co-founder Andre Banks. "This groundbreaking report adds major momentum to the work that LGBT equality advocates are doing worldwide. We applaud the U.N. High Commissioner on Human Rights, and the South African government in particular, for their courage and commitment to this historic civil and human rights struggle."

Prominent African human rights and LGBT rights advocates who work closely with AllOut.org responded to the historic report:

Alice N'Kom, Attorney and founder of the Association for the Defense of LGBT Rights in Cameroon ( ADEFHO ) , said:

"I am so proud that this breakthrough was initiated by an African country, and that South Africa is standing up for human rights. Not only were they leaders at the United Nations in pushing for the passage of this historic resolution on LGBT rights, they are also setting an example for all African countries and sending a simple message : homophobia is not an African value."

Ifeanyi Orazulike, public health advocate and director of the International Center for Advocacy on Right to Health ( ICARH ) in Abuja, Nigeria, said:

"This report highlights how the majority of our countries still cling to penal codes written under colonial rule - laws that make the lives and loving relationship of LGBT people illegal. And these laws and the prejudicial attitudes that keep them in place don't just punish LGBT Africans - they make our societies sicker - by undercutting our urgent work to battle the HIV / AIDS pandemic on the continent."

The report, titled Discriminatory Laws and Practices and Acts of Violence Against Individuals Based on their Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, affirms in unambiguous language that across the world:

People experience violence and discrimination because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. In many cases, even the perception of homosexuality or transgender identity puts people at risk. Violations include - but are not limited to - killings, rape and physical attacks, torture, arbitrary detention, the denial of rights to assembly, expression and information, and discrimination in employment, health and education. United Nations mechanisms, including human rights treaty bodies and the special procedures of the Human Rights Council, have documented such violations for close to two decades.

The report makes a number of recommendations, among them that UN member States:

Investigate promptly all reported killings and other serious incidents of violence perpetrated against individuals because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.

Ensure that no one fleeing persecution on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity is returned to a territory where his or her life or freedom would be threatened.

Repeal laws used to criminalize individuals on grounds of homosexuality for engaging in consensual same-sex sexual conduct, and harmonize the age of consent for heterosexual and homosexual conduct.

The United Nations commitment to spurring a robust global dialogue on this critical issue is yet one more sign that the movement for LGBT equality is global, and that it's time has come.

AllOut.org is a global campaign organization of over 800,000 people from 190 countries around the world dedicated to LGBT equality. A movement working online and on the ground to build a world in which everyone can live freely and be embraced for who they are, All Out is adding global people power to the historic fight for LGBT equality. Find out more at:www.allout.org .

Astraea welcomes first UN report on sexual orientation and gender identity

NEW YORK, NY, December 15th, 2011—The Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice enthusiastically welcomes the groundbreaking human rights report issued by the United Nations ( UN ) Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights this morning. Long overdue, this report is the first ever UN report to document violence, discrimination and human rights abuses based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Although parts of the UN system have increasingly addressed these issues for the last two decades, the report is the first from the UN system to focus specifically on sexual orientation and gender identity. This landmark document unequivocally affirms that the protections guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights apply to all, regardless of identity. It gives an overview of the many violations LGBT people face in both the global North and South. From killings, rape, torture and arbitrary arrest to discrimination in health care, employment and education, this study highlights violations and calls for an end to persecution of activists and their organizations.

Astraea Executive Director J. Bob Alotta noted the report's focus on experiences of traditionally marginalized people. "Around the world, lesbians, transgender people, and others face violations because of who they love, what they look like, or because of their activism. It's time for states to put an end to this violence and discrimination." Historically, women and LGBT people do not report the violations they face because it is not safe to do so. Lesbians in particular often face further abuses from police, family or community members and religious or cultural authorities.

Astraea board member Cynthia Rothschild, who contributed to the report, notes that the study "is actually a product of decades of activism, and the result of LGBT people from around the world making courageous claims for their own rights and the rights of others who are persecuted because of gender and sexuality."

Every day, Astraea grantee partners around the world are engaged in creative acts of resistance. The programming and advocacy of hundreds of groups, including those partnered with Astraea, have helped to make this report possible, in part through normalizing these human rights concerns in their own countries. "It's their advocacy that makes this kind of UN effort possible," said Alotta.

This review was commissioned through a resolution put forward by South Africa with cross regional support in June of 2011 at the UN's Human Rights Council in Geneva. It will be discussed at a Council session in March of 2012 which will be the first UN debate specifically devoted to the rights of LGBT people. With this report, states are committing to the principle that human rights are universal, and that all people, without exception, are entitled to enjoy the full range of human rights. The study makes recommendations to governments, including ensuring that violence, including rape, is investigated and perpetrators are held accountable; that anti-discrimination laws address sexual orientation and gender identity; and that laws used to persecute LGBT people are repealed.

The report's release today and the future work of the UN to demand government action and implementation of LGBT human rights protection marks a new moment for human rights. It recognizes that the urgent needs of LGBT communities facing violence and discrimination have long been ignored. "Countering discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity should be non-controversial," the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has stated. "We are not trying to create new rights or extend human rights into new, uncharted territory. What we are doing is insisting that all people are entitled to the same rights and to the equal protection of international human rights law."

To read the UN Report on violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, visit:

http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/docs/19session/A.HRC.19.41_English.pdf

The Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice works for social, racial, economic and gender justice in the U.S. and internationally. Our grantmaking and philanthropic advocacy programs help lesbians and allied communities challenge oppression and claim their human rights. www.astraeafoundation.org


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