Today, on 30 September 2016, the first ever Independent Expert focused on sexual orientation and gender identity ( SOGI ) was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council ( HRC ). The HRC appointed Vitit Muntarbhorn, a law professor and experienced human rights expert from Thailand, to the position. He will serve in this capacity for three years with the possibility of extension.
"This appointment is a huge leap forward. The governments of the world have appointed an expert to document anti-LGBT rights violations and provide technical assistance to identify solutions and bring about lasting social change. We celebrate that his appointment went through the Human Rights Commission today and we will work to put resources at his disposal to ensure the success of this vitally important mandate," commented Jessica Stern, Executive Director of OutRight Action International, formerly the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission.
Muntarbhorn has served on several United Nations bodies and currently serves as a Commissioner on the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria. He also participated in the drafting of the Yogyakarta Principles, which detail the application of international human rights law to sexual orientation and gender identity.
The mandate of an Independent Expert on SOGI issues was created on June 30th, in Geneva, with the adoption of resolution A/HRC/RES/32/2 on the "Protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation, and gender identity." The resolution was put forth by a group of seven Latin American countries - Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico and Uruguay.
A campaign of 628 nongovernmental organizations from 151 countries advocated for the adoption of the resolution and for the establishment of the SOGI Independent Expert position.
"As a Thai activist, I couldn't be more proud that the world's first Independent expert on SOGI is from my country. Thailand, among other countries in the region, still does not fully respect and protect the human rights of LGBTIQ citizens. I am hopeful that his leadership will encourage positive legal change and social acceptance of LGBTIQ people in Thailand and around the world," commented Rashima Kwatra, Communication's Officer at OutRight Action International.
The adoption of the resolution was met with pushback led by Pakistan, as part of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, barring Albania. Countries such as Saudi Arabia and Russia have asserted at today's closing of the 33rd Session of the Human Rights Council that they will not engage with the SOGI Independent Expert.
Muntarbhorn will be tasked with assessing implementation of existing international human rights law; identifying best practices and gaps; raising awareness of violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity; engaging in dialogue and consultation with States and other stakeholders; and facilitating provision of advisory services, technical assistance, capacity-building, and cooperation to help address violence and discrimination on these grounds.
OutRight Action International
Every day around the world, LGBTIQ people's human rights and dignity are abused in ways that shock the conscience. The stories of their struggles and their resilience are astounding, yet remain unknownor willfully ignoredby those with the power to make change. OutRight Action International, founded in 1990 as the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, works alongside LGBTIQ people in the Global South, with offices in six countries, to help identify community-focused solutions to promote policy for lasting change. We vigilantly monitor and document human rights abuses to spur action when they occur. We train partners to expose abuses and advocate for themselves. Headquartered in New York City, OutRight is the only global LGBTIQ-specific organization with a permanent presence at the United Nations in New York that advocates for human rights progress for LGBTIQ people.