January 26, 2011 – IBN Live
Gays need more protection, says UN chief
Geneva – Gays and lesbians need more support to protect their rights, even if homosexuality raises cultural issues in some parts of the world, the UN chief said. "We must reject persecution of people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity," said UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. "Cultural practice cannot justify any violation of human rights," Ban insisted, addressing the Geneva-based Human Rights Council.
He said women were often treated as "second class citizens" sometimes justified as a so-called cultural practice. He noted that racism was often justified under a similar pretext. "But that is merely an excuse. When our fellow human beings are persecuted because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, we must speak out," Ban told the UN’s top human rights forum.
10 March 2011 – UN Human Rights
Laws criminalizing homosexuality are incompatible with international human rights standards and fuel homophobia
Laws criminalizing same-sex relations between consenting adults remain on the statute books in more than 70 countries. They are an affront to principles of equality and non-discrimination and fuel hatred and violence—in effect giving homophobia a State-sanctioned seal of approval. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, and UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon have both called for the worldwide decriminalization of homosexuality and for further measures to counter discrimination and prejudice directed at those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT). In recent months, a series of incidents and developments have underscored the extent and the urgency of the challenge.
Homophobia, like racism and misogyny is a prejudice born of ignorance © OHCHRIn February 2011, Malawi enacted a law criminalizing homosexuality among women. Homosexuality is already illegal for men in that county. If convicted, a defendant could receive up to five years’ imprisonment. Responding to the Malawian decision, the High Commissioner said “I have repeatedly argued that laws criminalizing homosexuality are inherently discriminatory and incompatible with existing international human right standards, including those enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Malawi has acceded, and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, which Malawi has ratified.”
In Uganda, on 26 January 2011, leading gay human rights activist David Kato was beaten to death in his home outside Kampala. In the months leading up to his murder, he had been a target of a hate-campaign mounted by a local newspaper, The Rolling Stone, which printed his name, photograph and address alongside those of dozens of others the paper claimed were gay or lesbian, and called for them to be hanged. “We must await the outcome of judicial proceedings to know who killed him and why. But whoever is responsible and whatever their motive, we know the fear felt by many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals in Uganda and elsewhere who continue to face widespread prejudice and the constant threat of homophobic violence. Kato’s death robs them of a brave and eloquent advocate. The Ugandan authorities must act to counter this climate of hate and ensure the safety of all Ugandans,” the High Commissioner said.
Homosexuality is illegal in Uganda and a pending Anti-Homosexual Bill would broaden the criminalization of homosexuality, imposing life imprisonment or even the death penalty for anyone who is found to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender or HIV positive. The Bill also includes a provision that could lead to a prison sentence of up to three years for anyone who fails to report within 24 hours the identities of any LGBT individual, including members of their own family. Even where homosexuality is not subject to criminal sanctions, LGBT individuals continue to suffer discrimination and violence, fuelled by homophobia. In the United States, for example, the recent suicide of seven teenage boys in the space of a single month was attributed to homophobic bullying in schools. Homophobia also lay behind the shocking case of three young men, kidnapped, beaten and tortured in New York City in October 2010. According to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs in the United States, 2,181 hate crimes targeting LGBT persons were recorded in 2009, including 22 murders.
In Honduras, seven transgender persons were reported murdered during a two month period between November 2010 and January 2011, bringing a total of 34 LGBT persons killed in that country since June 2009, according to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Organization of American States. In Brazil, Grupo Gay da Bahia, a long established NGO working on LGBT human rights issues, recently reported that in 2010, 250 LGBT individuals were killed because of their sexual orientation or gender identity—equivalent to one person killed every day and a half. The same source reports that more than 3,100 homosexuals have been killed in Brazil since 1980.
“Decriminalizing homosexuality is an essential first step towards establishing genuine equality before the law. But real, lasting progress cannot be achieved by changing laws alone. We must change minds as well. Like racism and misogyny, homophobia is a prejudice born of ignorance. And like other forms of prejudice, the most effective long-term response is information and education,” the High Commissioner said.
March 22, 2011 – United Nations Human Rights Commisssion
UNHRC Statement on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity— (endorsed by 80+ countries)
"Ending Acts of Violence and Related Human Rights Violations Based on Sexual Orientationand Gender Identity." This statement was adopted by the UN Human Rights Council with the support of over 80 countries yesterday (22 March 2011). It is another step forward in the recognition of Sexual Orentation and Gender Identity Rights in international Law. The interesting thing is that we find that the number of countries that support the satement (and/or SOGI issues) is growing. Fiji from the Pacific and Rwanda from Africa are now firmly on Board. Nepal in Asia is consistent and at the forefront of SOGI issues internationally.
The traditional opponents continue to be the same, OIC often led by Pakistan, The Holy See, and Russia. Nigeria is another country that opposed the statement, but in their intervention, mentioned that violence based on SOGI should end (call it a good example of double standards).
March 23, 2011 – On Top Magazine
Obama Administration Signs Onto United Nations Gay Rights Resolution
by On Top Magazine Staff
Eighty-five countries including the United States issued a joint statement at the United Nations Human Rights Council on Tuesday expressing support for gay rights. The statement expresses “concern at continued evidence in every region of acts of violence and related human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity” and calls on countries “to take steps to end acts of violence, criminal sanctions and related human rights violations committed against individuals because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”
“Human rights are the inalienable right of every person, no matter who they are or who they love,” Eileen Chamberlain Donahue, U.S. ambassador to the council in Geneva, said in a statement. “The U.S. government is firmly committed to supporting the right of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals to lead productive and dignified lives, free from fear and violence.”
Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest gay rights advocate, applauded the move. “The Administration has laudably reaffirmed its commitment to the philosophy that LGBT rights are human rights by joining today’s statement before the U.N. Human Rights Council,” Solmonese said in a statement. “With over 89 nations jointly participating in the statement, the message is clear that hate violence against LGBT people should not be tolerated by any government.”
A 2008 United Nations General Assembly resolution calling for the universal decriminalization of being gay was met with an equally forceful, Arab-backed statement opposing it. The statement, which gathered 66 signatures after it was read in the chamber, condemned homosexuality: “[Decriminalizing homosexuality could lead] to the social normalization, and possibly the legitimization, of many deplorable acts including pedophilia.” More than 80 countries, mostly in Africa and the Middle East, outlaw sex between members of the same sex. Nine countries prescribe death as punishment.
March 29, 2011 – Bay Windows
Nations pledge movement on LGBT issues at UN Human Rights Council
by Rex Wockner – Bay Windows Contributor
As the United Nations Human Rights Council continued its periodic review sessions on various nations, several developments took place this month. Mongolia’s representatives accepted recommendations that the nation address issues of violence against LGBT people. Panama accepted a recommendation to synchronize its national laws with the norms of "The Yogyakarta Principles on the Application of International Human Rights Law in Relation to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity," which were drawn up at a 2006 meeting in Indonesia by human-rights experts from around the world. Honduras agreed to review its national laws to ensure that LGBT human rights are not abridged. And Jamaica agreed to provide enforcement officials with sensitivity training on matters of sexual orientation, gender identity, and HIV.
At the same time, representatives of four nations — Lebanon, Malawi, Maldives, and Mauritania — rejected recommendations that they decriminalize gay sex. In January at the Human Rights Council, São Tomé and Príncipe said it will legalize gay sex by June, and Nauru said it also plans to decriminalize homosexuality. The Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review officially analyzes the human-rights record of each of the 192 U.N. member nations on a rotating basis once every four years, and urges reviewed nations to protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms.
05 May, 2011 – MSM Global Forum
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay speaks on hate crimes against LGBT people
by Navi Pillay
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay speaks on hate crimes against lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people. May 2011
Access to video link
06 May 2011 – UNAIDS
UNESCO: Sexuality education for young people highly cost-effective
Sexuality education programmes can be highly cost-effective, especially when compulsory, adapted from existing models and integrated into the mainstream school curriculum. This is the major conclusion emerging from a seminal study released by UNESCO during a meeting of the UNAIDS Inter-Agency Task Team on Education in New York on 27 April 2011. The study, Cost and cost-effectiveness: Analysis of school-based sexuality education programmes in six countries, examines a range of programmes in Estonia, India, Indonesia, Kenya, the Netherlands and Nigeria. It highlights significant cost savings in a number of settings. It also shows that compulsory programmes are more cost-effective as they reap the benefits and greater impact of full coverage of the student population.
For example, in Estonia a national sexuality education programme was introduced and linked with accessible, youth-friendly sexual and reproductive health services. Between 2001 and 2009 some 13 490 ‘health events’ were averted in the country, including nearly 2 000 HIV infections, at a potential lifetime cost of US$ 67 825 per patient, approximately 4 300 unintended pregnancies and more than 7 000 sexually transmitted infections. The report also provides a detailed breakdown of the costs per learner of each completed sexuality education curriculum in the six countries. This ranges from US$ 6.90 in Nigeria to US$ 32.80 in the Netherlands. There are significantly higher costs in smaller pilot programmes, such as Kenya and Indonesia.
According to Mark Richmond, UNESCO’s Global Coordinator for HIV and AIDS, the landmark study gives an economic basis to the argument that sexuality education provides a key platform for HIV prevention amongst young people. “We now have the data and analysis to make a stronger and better informed case for investing in school-based sexuality education programmes, particularly in those countries most affected by the epidemic and prioritized for attention in the new UNAIDS Strategy 2011-2015.”
Reducing the sexual transmission of HIV by half by 2015, including among young people, is one of the goals of the UNAIDS Strategy. However, the 2010 UNAIDS global report shows a critical gap in comprehensive prevention knowledge about HIV amongst this age group and that about 40% of all new HIV infections among adults occur among young people aged 15-24. Cost and cost-effectiveness adds to the growing recognition that school-based sexuality education has the potential to play a key role in improving young people’s knowledge for HIV prevention.
Formed in 2002, the Inter-Agency Task Team on Education is convened by UNESCO and brings together UNAIDS Cosponsors, bilateral agencies, private donors and civil society partners to accelerate and improve a coordinated and harmonized education sector response to HIV.
18 May 2011 – PinkNews
70 countries celebrate Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia
by Jessica Geen
More than 70 countries around the world held events to celebrate International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO) yesterday. The day, in its seventh year, saw hundreds of events held in countries including Uganda, Nigeria and Kenya, where campaigners risked threats and violence to call for equal rights. It is estimated that 50 million people were exposed to IDAHO’s messages of tolerance and acceptance.
According to IDAHO’s organising committee, activists in hostile countries such as Uganda, Kenya, Burundi, Cameroon and Nigeria held public conferences, radio debates, artistic performances and community gatherings. In Latin America, 14 countries and dozens of human rights groups condemned ‘gay cure’ therapies, warning that they can lead to mental illness and even suicide. The ‘Cures that Kill’ campaign led to marches, rallies and other events. Eastern European activists reportedly suffered violence and harassment when they tried to stage events in countries such as Montenegro and Belarus. Moscow said it would continue to ban Pride marches.
Gay rights activists in Hong Kong accused police of intimidation and harassment for breaking up a rally in the city. It is claimed that officers filmed participants and threatened to arrest them. Burkina Faso, Fiji and Trinidad and Tobago all held IDAHO events for the first time. Both the European Union and United Nations marked the day with speeches and events, as did most European countries.
In the UK, foreign office minister Jeremy Browne released a message to say the country “strongly” supports the initiative, while events were held around the country. Worldwide, an estimated 17 million people read a copy of the international Metro, which was guest-edited by Lady Gaga and included LGBT-friendly messages.
GlobalGayz.Com blog posted here
May 18, 2008 – IGLHRC
Courage Unfolds Video Release: Tools for LGBT Activists and Allies
In commemoration of the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO), the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) is proud to announce the launch of Courage Unfolds – a video highlighting the struggles and triumphs of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) activists in Asia and promoting the use of international human rights law as a tool for social change. The video, which will have its New York premiere on June 7, was co-produced by IGLHRC and Lesbian Advocates Philippines (LeAP!).
The video highlights the issues faced by LGBT people in Asia as a way to make the Yogyakarta Principles accessible in layman’s terms. This set of 29 international legal principles – articulated in 2006 in Yogyakarta, Indonesia by a group of experts from around the world – addresses the application of international law to human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The video shows how the Yogyakarta principles are a relevant and effective tool that LGBT activists can use in their advocacy for human rights.
Momentum for this video’s release has been building since the April launch of the Courage Unfolds Campaign.
The Courage Unfolds Campaign calls for LGBT people to be protected by law, respected by society, and accepted by family. It is a call for the use of the Yogyakarta Principles as a tool to ensure the respect, protection and promotion by governments of the human rights of all people – including LGBT people.
Activists from throughout Asia have already begun using Courage Unfolds creatively, and IGLHRC invites others to find their own ways to utilize this new education and community-building tool. In early May, for instance, Courage Unfolds was screened in Jakarta, Indonesia to an international audience attending the People’s Forum of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN). In the Philippines, there will be a multimedia campaign launch and recognition ceremony where 29 awards will be given to local LGBT human rights defenders. Other screenings and community discussions will take place in Cambodia, China, Hong Kong and New Zealand to mark IDAHO. The video is currently being translated into Bahasa Indonesia, Bengali, Burmese, Chinese, Hindi, Khmer, Mongolian, Nepali, Thai and Vietnamese.
The events taking place around the world can be tracked on our Courage Unfolds Map.
The video’s New York screening on June 7, 2011 will be hosted with a reception by Credit Suisse and will be followed by a panel discussion and audience Q & A. The event is free and open to the public. To RSVP (by June 3) and for details email Robert Smith.
May 21, 2011 – "MSM Sexual Health – Asia"
The Sodomy Offense: England’s Least Lovely Criminal Law Export?
by The Honorable Michael Kirby, A.C., C.M.G (former Australian High Court justice)
This article describes the influence of the British Empire on the intercontinental spread of the criminal offences involving adult, private, consensual same-sex activity. It describes the origins of the crimes in Judeo-Christian scriptures and early English common law and statutory offences.
The nineteenth century moves for criminal law codification in Europe succeeded in abolishing such offences. They were not a feature of other European empires. However, although codification of the criminal law failed in England, five template codes exported the sodomy and other like offences to every land ruled by Britain. In 41 of the 54 Commonwealth countries, the offences remain in force.
The article describes how they were (often reluctantly) repealed by legislation between 1967 and 1997 in the older dominions. Repeal in newer Commonwealth countries has been slow or non-existent. The author describes new developments that give hope for progress, including the Naz Foundation case in India (2009) and the recent moves in the United Nations and elsewhere to foster legislative and judicial removal of this unlovely legacy of Empire.
Download the article here
May 24, 2011 – Equality Matters
Right-Wing Group Fuels Homophobia At The UN
by Kerry Eleveld
The leader of a right-wing organization, who made a name for herself by pushing abstinence-only based programs in Africa and has ties to the virulently antigay Ugandan pastor, Martin Ssempa, is stepping up efforts to promote homophobic messages among delegates at the United Nations. The Arizona-based Family Watch International (FWI) hosted “26 UN delegates from 23 different countries” at a policy forum in January that provided “expert presentations” and policy briefings about “how to better protect and promote the family and family values at the UN,” according to an FWI newsletter written by the organization’s president, Sharon Slater.
“The list of governments represented read like a geography lesson, as diplomats from countries around the globe-including from Africa, Asia, the Middle East and the Caribbean Islands-met in Gilbert in January,” trumpeted an article that has since been removed from the website of the Arizona Beehive, a publication that serves Arizona’s Mormon population. Slater’s newsletter characterizes the presentations at the meeting as providing information on “how the UN system is being manipulated by sexual rights activists to promote the sexual agenda” and adds that “the institution of the family is being undermined by these efforts.”
According to invitations distributed to attendees and obtained by Equality Matters the two-day session included briefings by lawyers on family policy issues dealt with by the UN’s Third Committee – the social, humanitarian, and cultural affairs committee – and those addressed by subsidiary bodies of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), including the Commissions on the Status of Women, Sustainable Development, and Population and Development. “Delegates will be provided with current research, statistics, and resources on a number of sensitive family issues that will be negotiated at upcoming UN conferences in 2011,” says the invitation.
Presumably, “family issues” would include matters like the vote last November in which a bloc of 79 countries, led by the African Group in the UN General Assembly, removed “sexual orientation” from a UN resolution that condemned extrajudicial and arbitrary executions of certain vulnerable minorities. The U.S. Mission reintroduced the language and successfully restored “sexual orientation” to the resolution the following month. As Slater told the Arizona Beehive, “Of grave concern to the UN delegates, were recent attempts by developed countries, with the United States taking the lead, to pressure developing countries to change their laws and policies to accept and promote a number of controversial sexual rights. The delegates said they urgently needed the scientific information we presented regarding sexual orientation and homosexuality, as these are emerging issues in UN policymaking.”
FWI’s forum answered that call by including a testimonial provided by “a patient” (as Slater puts it) who allegedly transformed her or his sexual orientation through reparative therapy – exactly the type of misinformation that is often touted by those who support criminalizing homosexuality in places like Africa and the Middle East. “One of the most moving presentations,” Slater writes of the conference, “was the personal testimony of a patient who is successfully reorienting from homosexuality to heterosexuality. For many of these diplomats, this was their first exposure to the scientific and clinical evidence that proves homosexuality is not genetically determined and fixed like skin color or race and that in many cases, individuals who experience same-sex attraction can be helped by therapy.”
While the right-wing rhetoric is perhaps unsurprising, what’s most fascinating and unsettling about Slater is her access to international leaders who have key roles in African countries such as Uganda – relationships that were originally fueled by the American push to export religious zealotry as the HIV/AIDS epidemic spread across the continent. Sharon Slater stands at the intersection between the war on gender equity and the effort to stymie LGBT rights – advancing her crusade against the international “assault” on the family. She is the quintessential portrait of a religious fundamentalist who got her start doing the abstinence-only work that thrived during the Bush years and has parlayed the international connections she made during that time into helping to spread her corrosive homophobic views abroad.
People like Slater, says Ugandan lesbian activist Val Kalende, are proffering the tools that are being wielded by African politicians and religious leaders to stigmatize and suppress a vulnerable minority.
30 May 2011 – PinkNews
Increasing number of countries becoming more tolerant of homosexuality, survey shows
by Christopher Brocklebank
Results of a new cross-national study have shown that a vast majority of countries have become more accepting of homosexuality over the past 20 years – though the trend is markedly slower in Russia and other former Communist countries. With support from the Williams Institute, a report by the National Opinion Research Centre (NORC) at the University of Chicago has presented new findings on the cross-national differences in attitudes towards homosexuality. Based on five rounds of surveys undertaken in different countries between 1988 and 2008, the report examined general trends and ranked countries regarding their attitudes towards homosexuality.
The conclusion was that “overwhelmingly, societies have become more accepting of homosexual behavior.” Thirty-one countries were identified with data relating to public opinion about LGB people. Of those, approval of homosexuality increased in 27 countries and decreased in only four: Russia, the Czech Republic, Cyprus, and Latvia.
The top five countries with the highest acceptance of homosexuality were the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Switzerland, and Belgium-Flanders, while the lower half of the list consisted of seven ex-Socialist states, four East Asian nations, three Latin American countries and Cyprus, South Africa, and Turkey. In Russia, for example, 59 per cent of the population felt that homosexual behavior was wrong in 1991 compared with 64% in 2008. In the same year, 54 per cent of Americans surveyed said they believed homosexuality was “always wrong”.
The report also found that attitudes towards homosexuality were more tolerant among younger adults, the educated, the non-religious and those living in large metropolitan areas.
May 2011 – UNHR
Combating discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity
“As men and women of conscience, we reject discrimination in general, and in particular discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity… Where there is tension between cultural attitudes and universal human rights, universal human rights must carry the day”— UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, New York, 10 December 2010. Every day, around the world, individuals suffer discrimination, vilification and violent attack because they are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex (LGBTI). In more than 70 countries, homosexuality remains a criminal offence, exposing gay men and lesbians to the risk of arrest, imprisonment and, in some cases, torture or the death penalty.
While the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and United Nations human rights treaties do not explicitly mention “sexual orientation” or “gender identity”, they do establish an obligation on the part of States to protect people from discrimination, including on the basis of “sex … or other status.” UN treaty bodies, whose role is to monitor and support States’ compliance with treaty obligations, have issued a series of decisions or general comments1 all confirming that such language is sufficiently broad as to encompass “sexual orientation,” effectively establishing sexual orientation as a prohibited ground of discrimination under relevant human rights treaties. This view has also been endorsed by 17 special procedures (independent experts appointed by the Human Rights Council to monitor and report on various human rights issues), as well as by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the UN Secretary-General.
In a landmark speech on the subject delivered on Human Rights Day (10 December) 2010, the Secretary-General noted that “As men and women of conscience, we reject discrimination in general, and in particular discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. When individuals are attacked, abused or imprisoned because of their sexual orientation, we must speak out…" He pledged to put himself “on the line,” promising “to rally support for the decriminalization of homosexuality everywhere in the world.”
Activities of the human rights office
OHCHR is committed to working with States, national human rights institutions and civil society to achieve progress towards the worldwide decriminalization of homosexuality and further measures to protect people from violence and discrimination on grounds of their sexual orientation or gender identity. While this work is still in its infancy within OHCHR, planned activities include:
Privately raising concerns and putting forward recommendations for reform in the context of dialogue with Governments. Monitoring and bringing to light patterns of human rights violations affecting LGBTI persons in public reporting, including reporting produced by OHCHR field presences. Engaging in public advocacy of decriminalization and other measures necessary to strengthen human rights protection for LGBTI persons, including through participation in events, speeches and press statements and newspaper articles. Working with UN partners to implement various public information and related educational activities intended to counter homophobia and violence motivated by animosity towards LGBTI persons. Providing support for the special procedures mandate-holders in the context of their fact-finding activities and confidential communications with Government.
Supporting the human rights treaty bodies, a number of which have addressed the issue of discrimination linked to sexual orientation in previous general comments and concluding observations and continue to highlight steps that individual States should take in order to comply with their international treaty obligations in this respect. Providing support for the Universal Periodic Review, which provides a forum for concerns regarding the rights of LGBTI persons to be aired and for recommendations to be developed. The Office’s work on LGBTI human rights is coordinated from OHCHR-New York.
June 17, 2011 – United Nations Human Rights Council
UNHRC – First-Ever Resolution on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
Today the United Nations Human Rights Council passed a resolution on human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity (L.9/Rev.1) – an historic decision that establishes new mechanisms for studying and discussing this issue. Given the role that human rights violations play in exacerbating HIV risk among men who have sex with men and transgender people, this resolution has be potential to play a pivotal part in an effective global response to HIV.
The full text of the resolution can be found here
Historic Decision at the United Nations:
Human Rights Council Passes First-Ever Resolution on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
In a groundbreaking achievement for upholding the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the United Nations Human Rights Council has passed a resolution on human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity (L9/rev1).
The resolution, presented by South Africa along with Brasil and 39 additional co-sponsors from all regions of the world, was passed by a vote of 23 in favour, 19 against, and 3 abstentions. A list of how States voted is attached. In its presentation to Council, South Africa recalled the UDHR noting that “everyone is entitled to all rights and freedoms without distinction of any kind” and Brasil called on the Council to “open the long closed doors of dialogue”.
Today’s resolution is the first UN resolution ever to bring specific focus to human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and follows a joint statement on these issues delivered at the March session of the council. It affirms the universality of human rights, and notes concern about acts of violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. This commitment of the Human Rights Council sends an important signal of support to human rights defenders working on these issues, and recognizes the legitimacy of their work.
“The South African government has now offered progressive leadership, after years of troubling and inconsistent positions on the issue of sexual orientation and gender identity. Simultaneously, the government has set a standard for themselves in international spaces. We look forward to contributing to and supporting sustained progressive leadership by this government and seeing the end of the violations we face daily”. (Dawn Cavanagh, Coalition of African Lesbians)
The resolution requests the High Commissioner for Human Rights to prepare a study on violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, and calls for a panel discussion to be held at the Human Rights Council to discuss the findings of the study in a constructive and transparent manner, and to consider appropriate follow-up.
“That we are celebrating the passage of a UN resolution about human rights violations on the basis of sexual orientation is remarkable, however the fact that gender identity is explicitly named truly makes this pivotal moment one to rejoice in,” added Justus Eisfeld, Co-Director of GATE. “The Human Rights Council has taken a step forward in history by acknowledging that both sexual and gender non-conformity make lesbian, gay, trans* and bi people among those most vulnerable and indicated decisively that states have an obligation to protect us from violence.”
"As treaty bodies, UN special procedures, and national courts have repeatedly recognized, international human rights law prohibits discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity.” (Alli Jernow, International Commission of Jurists) The resolution is consistent with other regional and national jurisprudence, and just this week, the 2011 United Nations Political Declaration on HIV and AIDS recognised the need to address the human rights of men who have sex with men, and the Organization of American States adopted by consensus a resolution condemning violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
Earlier in this 17th session of the Human Rights Council, the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, Rashida Manjoo, reported to the Council that: “[C]ontributory factors for risk of violence include individual aspects of women’s bodily attributes such as race, skin colour, intellectual and physical abilities, age, language skills and fluency, ethnic identity and sexual orientation.”
The report also detailed a number of violations committed against lesbian, bisexual and trans women, including cases of rape, attacks and murders. It is therefore regrettable that a reference to "women who face sexuality-related violence" was removed from the final version of another resolution focused on the elimination of violence against women during the same session. "Despite this inconsistency, we trust the UN resolution on sexual orientation and gender identity will facilitate the integration of the full range of sexual rights throughout the work of the UN." (Meghan Doherty, Sexual Rights Initiative)
A powerful civil society statement was delivered at the end of the session, welcoming the resolution and affirming civil society’s commitment to continuing to engage with the United Nations with a view to ensuring that all persons are treated as free and equal in dignity and rights, including on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. “Now, our work is just beginning”, said Kim Vance of ARC International. “We look forward to the High Commissioner’s report and the plenary panel next March, as well as to further dialogue with, and support from, those States which did not yet feel able to support the resolution, but which share the concern of the international community at these systemic human rights abuses.”
ARC International, John Fisher (Geneva) +41 79 508 3968 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Amnesty International, Peter Splinter (Geneva) +41 (0) 22 906 9483 or Emily Gray (London) +44 (0) 20 7413 5865
CAL – Coalition of African Lesbians, Dawn Cavanagh (South Africa) + 27 11 918 6115 or email@example.com
COC Nederland, Björn van Roozendaal? (Netherlands) +31 6 22 55 83 00 or BvanRoozendaal@coc.nl
Council for Global Equality, Mark Bromley (Washington) +1.202.719.0511 or Mark@globalequality.org
GATE – Global Action for Trans* Equality, Justus Eisfeld (New York) firstname.lastname@example.org, +1-646-341-1699 or Mauro Cabral (Argentina) email@example.com or +54 9 351 5589876
Heartland Alliance for Human Needs & Human Rights, Stefano Fabeni (Washington) +1 312-919-3512 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Human Rights Watch, Siphokazi Mthathi (South Africa) email@example.com or + 27 82 777 1319/ +27 11 484 2640 or Juliette De Rivero (Geneva) +41 079 640 1649 or firstname.lastname@example.org
IDAHO – International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, Joel Bedos (France) email@example.com
IGLHRC – International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, Jessica Stern (New York) + 1 212 430 6014 or firstname.lastname@example.org
ILGA – the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, Renato Sabbadini, +32 474 857 950 or email@example.com
International Campaign Stop Trans Pathologization STP 2012, Amets Suess, firstname.lastname@example.org
International Commission of Jurists, Alli Jernow (Geneva) +41(0)22 979 3800) or email@example.com
International Service for Human Rights (ISHR), Bjorn Pettersson (Geneva), firstname.lastname@example.org, +41 22 919 7117
Sexual Rights Initiative, Meghan Doherty, Sexual Rights Initiative, +41 (0)78 871 6713 or email@example.com
Thailand’s Sexual Diversity Network, Paisarn Likhitpreechakul +66 81 634 3450 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Transgender Europe (TGEU), Carla LaGata (Germany), email@example.com
States supporting the resolution: Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, Cuba, Ecuador, France, Guatemala, Hungary, Japan, Mauritius, Mexico, Norway, Poland, Republic of Korea, Slovakia, Spain, Switzerland, Ukraine, Thailand, UK, USA, Uruguay
States against the resolution: Angola, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Cameroon, Djibouti, Gabon, Ghana, Jordan, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, Moldova, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Uganda.
Abstentions: Burkina Faso, China, Zambia
Absent: Kyrgyzstan, Libya (suspended)
Co-Sponsors of the resolution: Albania, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Honduras, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Timor-Leste, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, United States of America, and Uruguay.
21 June, 2011 – MSM Global Forum
Walk the path of human rights
by Shobha Shukla
A report from the UN Special Rapporteur calls upon nation states to decriminalise consensual same-sex conduct, repeal discriminatory laws relating to sexual orientation and gender identity, repeal laws criminalising sex work, and provide human rights education for health professionals. Criminalisation is not only a breach of a State?s duty to prevent discrimination, it also creates an atmosphere where affected people are disempowered, unable to achieve full realisation of their human rights. According to a recent UNDP report, India has 30.5 million men who have sex with men (MSM), and over a million Hijra and transgender people. The national HIV prevalence in MSM is estimated at 7.41%, with 24% testing positive in the state of Goa and 18.8% in Mumbai. While MSM in India are at high risk of acquiring and transmitting HIV, only about 4% are able to access appropriate services. The situation is more serious for transgender populations.
Here, HIV prevalence can be as high as 42% in Mumbai, and 49% in Delhi. This has been attributed to low levels of awareness, unsafe sexual practices, inadequate services and social marginalisation. The same report confirms that MSM and transgender people are highly stigmatised in India, with many reporting discrimination when accessing health care services, education, employment and justice. There is also violence perpetrated by police and health care workers. This is a gross violation of human rights. The new Pehchan programme, implemented by the India HIV/AIDS Alliance and six state partners with Round 9 grant support from the Global Fund For AIDS, TB and Malaria (the Global Fund), is designed to strengthen community-based organisations for MSM, transgender and Hijra populations to address barriers in the delivery of HIV prevention services in a way that protects human rights and prevents violations. Heterosexuals living with HIV in India also face stigma and discrimination, but for MSMs and transgender populations there is double jeopardy.
They are at increased risk of contracting HIV, and face poor access to services. In order to prevent and control HIV, we must protect and promote the human rights of the most vulnerable and marginalised people. Community organisations and civil society consider overwhelmingly that the Global Fund should urge recipient countries, including India, to introduce appropriate legislation, which decriminalises same sex relationships. Once appropriate laws are in place, steps can be taken at the country level for their proper implementation. Another suggestion was to withhold funding from countries with a record of human rights violations. The Naz Foundation International (NFI) is headed by Shivananda Khan, and is the recipient of another Global Fund Round 9 grant that supports a regional community-strengthening programme to reduce the spread of HIV among MSM and transgender people.
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June 23, 2011 – Huffpost World
Muslim States Must Support LGBT Rights
by Melody Moezzi
Last week, in an historic and long-overdue move, the United Nations passed a resolution recognizing the rights of gay, lesbian and transgender people around the world. With South Africa leading the charge, the U.N. Human Rights Council voted in favor of the resolution by a narrow margin of 23 to 19, with three abstentions. The new declaration holds that no one should be subject to discrimination or violence based on her or his sexual orientation or gender identity. Sounds like common sense to me, something that ought to go without saying, but unfortunately, it cannot go without saying. According to Amnesty International, 76 countries around the world continue to criminalize consensual same-sex relations, and whether as a result of discriminatory legal systems or hate crimes or suicide, one thing is certain: gays, lesbians and transgender individuals are being killed, tortured and victimized all over the world, simply for being who they are.
If that isn’t the very definition of a human rights violation, I’m not sure what is. The LGBT community represents the most vulnerable and marginalized sector of nearly every society worldwide, and as such, it’s vital that international bodies like the U.N. speak up in support of LGBT rights. Likewise, because it is so often religion that is abused and misused to justify the assault, murder and harassment of gays, lesbians and transgender people, it is equally important for religious individuals, groups and organizations to stand up in defense of the LGBT community. As a Muslim, it is my moral obligation to speak out and stand up whenever I see an injustice being carried out, and if I see any particular group that is especially vulnerable or marginalized, it is my moral duty to rush to that community’s aid. So, it’s especially painful for me to see Muslim majority countries and members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) voting against this historic U.N. resolution. If it was, as I suspect, some alleged affinity for Islam that led Pakistan, Malaysia, Jordan, Senegal or other OIC countries to oppose this resolution, I have some words of caution and advice for the OIC.
First, as Muslims, I’m sure you know that it is your religious duty to pursue peace and justice and that there is no sin worse than oppressing another human being. So, no matter your personal theological opinion or your interpretation of the Biblical story of Lot, it is incumbent upon you to resist oppression, and in doing so, to protect those who happen to be most vulnerable to it in any given time or place. Second, if we, as Muslims, expect our rights to be respected around the world, then we too must respect the rights of other minority groups. This includes the LGBT community. As Muslims, we know what it’s like to live in a world that can be hostile and discriminatory. Therefore, we have an even greater obligation to create the least hostile and discriminatory planet we can.
Let’s face it, my dear OIC member states, there are alarmingly large numbers of people out there who are convinced that Islam is the devil incarnate, that we Muslims are out to conquer and destroy the world, and that Islam is both "wrong" and "immoral." I know that these people exist because they love sending me emails. That said, I vehemently disagree with all of them, and I thank God that their hatred and bigotry hold no weight in any American court of law. So too, your intolerance and homophobia should hold no more legal weight than any of my pen pals’ vicious Islamophobia.
Finally, the LGBT Muslim community, along with their many heterosexual allies such as myself, will not let bigots and homophobes define our religion for us or for the rest of the world. We have scholars and imams in our ranks, and we refuse to be considered "less Muslim" because of our sexual orientation, gender identity or our choice to acknowledge that such distinctions are in fact God-given. Thus, the OIC member states that chose to oppose the recent U.N. LGBT rights resolution have not spoken for Muslims worldwide, and this is one Muslim who isn’t about to let them try.
2011 June 23 – For LGBT Equality
Council of Europe launches its first study on the human rights situation of LGBT people
Today, the Council of Europe launches its socio-legal report on discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. This is the first ever report covering all 47 member states of the Council of Europe on a range of human rights issues that are pertinent to lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) people: attitudes and perceptions towards them, legal standards and their implementation, protection from violence and access to asylum, freedoms of assembly, expression and association, gender recognition and family life, and access to health care, education and employment.
The report clearly demonstrates that LGBT people continue to be subjected to homophobia and transphobia in their everyday lives in all Council of Europe member states and those attitudes are being based on ‘outdated and incorrect information’ about sexual orientation, gender identity and gender . It also provides a number of recommendations on nonlegislative measures such as state education programmes aiming to increase awareness and understanding of various sexual orientations and gender identities and therefore promote improvement of the social attitudes based on facts and objective information.
“There is considerable resistance among many people, including political leaders, to discuss the full enjoyment of universal human rights by LGBT persons. Even if this may not be a popular human rights topic, the time has now come to take the discussion forward and make it concrete. Converging efforts by the Council of Europe, the European Union, the OSCE and the UN are essential for ensuring the full enjoyment of universal rights by LGBT persons everywhere”, said the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg.
June 27 2011 – ColorLines
A Snapshot of Global LGBT Rights, From New York to the United Nations
by Michelle Chen, Stokely Baksh
New York became the largest state in the U.S. to legally recognize same-sex marriages over the weekend, a dramatic development that reshapes the debate over LGBT equality in the U.S. But New York’s not the only place where the rights of LGBT people are expanding this month. The United Nations Human Rights Council has also widened the scope of debate over global human rights on June 17 when it approved a new declaration on rights related to gender identity and sexual orientation.
The Council’s unprecedented resolution “Express[es] grave concern at acts of violence and discrimination, in all regions of the world, committed against individuals because of their sexual orientation and gender identity.” It also calls for a commission to investigate the issue and study “how international human rights law can be used to end violence and related human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity.” The resolution reflects the political foment on LGBT equality that has now touched every continent. The week the resolution passed, Ugandan Unitarian minister and activist Rev. Mark Kiyimba spoke to an audience in Louisville about the dangers posed by a proposed “anti-gay” bill that would severely criminalize homosexuality. Meanwhile, halfway around the world, Nepal prepared to host its first lesbian wedding ceremony in South Asia. (The happy couple, two forty-somethings from Colorado, added yet another international dimension to the event).
According to the latest data from the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, however, being gay could be punishable by imprisonment in at least 75 nations. Worldwide, 53 countries have laws that prohibit anti-LGBT discrimination in some way. Even within the U.N., barriers persist. Some activists noted that a separate resolution on violence against women conspicuously omitted a reference to attacks on lesbians. Meghan Doherty of the Sexual Rights Initiative stated that the organization hoped the new LGBT rights resolution would “facilitate the integration of the full range of sexual rights throughout the work of the UN.”
The resolution builds on an joint statement issued earlier in this session that “called on States to end violence, criminal sanctions and related human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity.” Another statement delivered by Nigeria on behalf of African countries called for the elimination of laws criminalizing homosexuality. “Do I think homosexuality will be decriminalized tomorrow as a result of the resolution? No,” said Jessica Stern, director of programs with the International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission. “But I know activists in both LGBT-friendly and homophobic and transphobic countries that are dialoguing with their governments about how they voted on the resolution and what it means at the domestic level. This resolution just passed, we’re all still celebrating, but now the real work of figuring out implementation at the domestic level must begin.”
28 June 2011 – Online Opinion
Gay refugee rights: legislation and human rights law
by Jo Coghlan
On 17 May 1970, homosexuality was removed from the International Classification of Diseases published by the World Health Organisation (WHO). On 17 May 2011, the 6th International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO) was held. Yet, consensual acts between same-sex adults are criminalised in 80 member states of the United Nations and homosexuality results in the death penalty in six of these countries
On 17 June 2011, the United Nations Human Rights Council passed a resolution on human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity. It upholds the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The International Commission of Jurists says the resolution builds on the treaty bodies, UN special procedures, and national courts that have repeatedly recognised that international human rights law prohibits discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity.
U.S. Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton said of the resolution: "All over the world, people face human rights abuses and violations because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, including torture, rape, criminal sanctions, and killing. Today’s landmark resolution affirms that human rights are universal. People cannot be excluded from protection simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity."
July 08, 2011 – On Top Magazine
Vatican Likens Being Gay To Incest, Pedophilia In Condemning UN Gay Rights Resolution
by On Top Magazine Staff
The Vatican has likened being gay to incest and pedophilia in condemning a United Nations gay rights resolution. Earlier this year, the United States backed a non-binding United Nations resolution condemning discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton cheered passed of the resolution in the 47-member Human Rights Council. Obama called the resolution’s passage a “significant milestone in the long struggle for [LGBT] equality.”
“This represents a historic moment to highlight the human rights abuses and violations that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people face around the world based solely on who they are and who they love,” Clinton said. While the measure was backed by representatives from the European Union, Brazil and other Latin American countries, African and Islamic countries condemned the resolution, saying it had “nothing to do with fundamental rights.”
Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi, the Vatican’s representative to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, objected to the resolution, the Catholic News Agency reported. “The archbishop expanded on a point he has previously tried to impress upon the Human Rights Council, as he observed that all societies regulate sexual behavior to some extent – by forbidding practices like incest, pedophilia, or rape – for the sake of the common good.”
While Tomasi reiterated that he does not support violence against gay men and lesbians, he also suggest that being gay is a choice. “Instead of ‘gender,’ the concept we should use is ‘sex,’ a universal term in natural law referring to male and female,” Tomasi said. “In fact, it seems that terms such as ‘gender’ or ‘sexual orientation’ are devised to escape reality and to accommodate a variety of feelings and impulses that then are transformed into rights.”
16 July 2011 – The Guardian
The rape of men
Sexual violence is one of the most horrific weapons of war, an instrument of terror used against women. Yet huge numbers of men are also victims. In this harrowing report, Will Storr travels to Uganda to meet traumatised survivors, and reveals how male rape is endemic in many of the world’s conflicts
by Will Storr
Of all the secrets of war, there is one that is so well kept that it exists mostly as a rumour. It is usually denied by the perpetrator and his victim. Governments, aid agencies and human rights defenders at the UN barely acknowledge its possibility. Yet every now and then someone gathers the courage to tell of it. This is just what happened on an ordinary afternoon in the office of a kind and careful counsellor in Kampala, Uganda. For four years Eunice Owiny had been employed by Makerere University’s Refugee Law Project (RLP) to help displaced people from all over Africa work through their traumas. This particular case, though, was a puzzle. A female client was having marital difficulties. "My husband can’t have sex," she complained. "He feels very bad about this. I’m sure there’s something he’s keeping from me."
Owiny invited the husband in. For a while they got nowhere. Then Owiny asked the wife to leave. The man then murmured cryptically: "It happened to me." Owiny frowned. He reached into his pocket and pulled out an old sanitary pad. "Mama Eunice," he said. "I am in pain. I have to use this." Laying the pus-covered pad on the desk in front of him, he gave up his secret. During his escape from the civil war in neighbouring Congo, he had been separated from his wife and taken by rebels. His captors raped him, three times a day, every day for three years. And he wasn’t the only one. He watched as man after man was taken and raped. The wounds of one were so grievous that he died in the cell in front of him.
"That was hard for me to take," Owiny tells me today. "There are certain things you just don’t believe can happen to a man, you get me? But I know now that sexual violence against men is a huge problem. Everybody has heard the women’s stories. But nobody has heard the men’s."
It’s not just in East Africa that these stories remain unheard. One of the few academics to have looked into the issue in any detail is Lara Stemple, of the University of California’s Health and Human Rights Law Project. Her study Male Rape and Human Rights notes incidents of male sexual violence as a weapon of wartime or political aggression in countries such as Chile, Greece, Croatia, Iran, Kuwait, the former Soviet Union and the former Yugoslavia. Twenty-one per cent of Sri Lankan males who were seen at a London torture treatment centre reported sexual abuse while in detention. In El Salvador, 76% of male political prisoners surveyed in the 1980s described at least one incidence of sexual torture. A study of 6,000 concentration-camp inmates in Sarajevo found that 80% of men reported having been raped.
Read complete article here
July 25, 2011 – Stephen Barris
UN Council Grants Consultative Status to International Lesbian and Gay Association
Geneva – The UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) granted today consultative status to the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA). ECOSOC consultative status allows NGOs to attend UN conferences and meetings, submit written statements and reports, make oral interventions, and host panels in UN buildings, thus representing a fundamental tool for an NGO like ILGA – with more than 700 member organisations in all continents – to do work on LGBTI human rights within the UN system.
There were 30 votes in favor of the motion: India, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Malta, Mexico, Mongolia, Nicaragua, Norway, Peru, Republic of Korea, Slovakia, Spain, Switzerland, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States, Venezuela, Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Chile, Ecuador, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary.
There were 13 votes against: Iraq, Morocco, Namibia, Pakistan, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Bangladesh, Cameroon, China, Egypt, Ghana) and 6 abstentions (Guatemala, Mauritius, Philipines, Rwanda, Bahamas, Ivory Coast)
ILGA was the first international LGBTI organization to get ECOSOC consultative status in 1993, but lost it the following year due to the presence of groups advocating the abolition of laws of consent. ILGA has applied to regain the status ever since, following the expulsion of the above mentioned groups from its membership and after amending its constitution to state clearly its commitment against child abuse, but a small group of countries sponsoring homophobia had been able to influence the votes in the UN NGO Committee examining the applications for a long time.
In the meantime, many ILGA members – like LBL Denmark, COC The Netherlands, FELGT Spain, LSVD Germany, ABGLT Brazil, IGLHRC US, and Ilga-Europe – were able to obtain the status by having the negative recommendation of the NGO Committee overturned in the ECOSOC Council, as it has happened in the case of ILGA today. "This is a historic day for our organization, which heals a 17-year-old wound – said co-Secretary General Renato Sabbadini, in Geneva for the occasion – and we want to thank all, really all UN Members who voted in our favor, they all deserve indeed to be fully recognized. A special thanks goes to Belgium, for its relentless efforts in building a consensus around us, together with the United States and Argentina. We would like to thank also our member organizations which successfully lobbied their Governments on this occasion and all our allies for their support, in particular Arc-International in Geneva."
"Today we are celebrating," said co-Secretary General Gloria Careaga from Mexico City, "but we are aware that there is a lot of work to do for us in the coming months. But we are looking forward to working together with all our members, particularly those which also have the status, and our allies to advance LGBTI human rights in the UN bodies in the coming years, taking advantage of the very positive developments opened by the resolution presented by South Africa in the UN Human Rights Council last June."
Pedro Paradiso Sottile, Regional Secretary for ILGA LAC (Latin America and the Caribbean), also in Geneva for the occasion, said: "Granting ILGA consultative status is an act of justice and a reason for pride for the international community working for a world where human rights are truly trespected without any discrimination. Our voices and our struggle for equality and freedom must reach every corner of the world, for differences in sexual orientation, gender identity and expression to be respected and protected by all States. We believe that the ECOSOC status will help all our activists around the world in this endeavor.”
August 24, 2011 – International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission
Inter-American Court to Hear First-Ever LGBT Case to Determine Lesbian Mother Bias in Custody Dispute
Today, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights heard the case of Karen Atala Riffo, a judge and lesbian mother who was stripped of custody of her two daughters by the Supreme Court of Chile in 2003. The Court hearing was held in Bogotá, Colombia. Atala, who won in lower court decisions, lost custody of her children when the High Court ruled that she was an unfit mother on the basis of her sexual orientation. Atala sought justice through the Inter-American Human Rights System, which redresses human rights violations committed by states.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights subsequently reviewed the case and in early 2011 issued a decision in Atala’s favor. The case was heard by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which will issue a legally binding decision with which the government of Chile has agreed to abide. This case is the first time the Inter-American Court of Human Rights has ever heard a case specifically regarding sexual orientation or gender identity. The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), the International Women’s Human Rights Law Clinic at the City University of New York (CUNY), MADRE, the law firm Morrison & Foerster and others, monitored the Inter-American Court session and will submit an amicus curae brief demonstrating the growing trend in customary international law that discrimination based on sexual orientation violates protected human rights.
“What happened to Karen Atala represents discrimination of the crudest sort. For no reason other than her sexuality, a court separated a mother from her children. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights now has an opportunity to render a decision that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is wrong.” Such a verdict will send a message to every state party to the American Convention on Human Rights — from the village court all the way to national supreme courts — that sexual orientation has no bearing on a parent’s ability to raise healthy children,” said Jessica Stern, Director of Programs for IGLHRC.
“Ignoring the growing international trend against discrimination based on sexual orientation, the highest court of Chile has institutionalized discrimination in this case, with the denial of Atala’s parental rights. Perversely, Atala is recognized as fit to uphold the highest principles of justice as a judge, and yet the Supreme Court found that she is not fit to carry out the duties of a mother. Indeed, Chile makes no attempt to deny that its action was on the basis of Ms. Atala’s sexual orientation,” said Lisa Davis, Adj. Professor of Law for the IWHR Clinic at CUNY Law School.
13 September 2011 – The Guardian
Gay rights: a world of inequality – Gay people still live in fear in many countries around the world – prejudice, torture and execution are common. Can two new legal and diplomatic campaigns change attitudes?
by Zoe Williams – The Guardian
Last Thursday, three men were hanged in Iran for the crime of lavat, sexual intercourse between two men. The case is considered extreme even by Iranian standards, because while the death penalty is in place for homosexuality, it is usually enforced only when there is a charge of assault or rape alongside it; the accusations in these three cases were of consensual sex.
In Uganda, politicians have been seeking since 2009 to institute a strikingly nasty piece of legislation: the death penalty for "aggravated homosexuality" (being homosexual more than once) and, in a totalitarian touch, penalties for teachers, doctors and even parents who suspected that someone in their care was gay but didn’t report them. In Belize, there is a law on the statute books that criminalises homosexuality; a gay rights group in the country, Unibam, has brought a motion challenging the law, and had this reply from the minister of works, Anthony "Boots" Martinez: "My position is that God never placed anything on me for me to look at a man and jump on a man. I’ll be clear on it … How would you decriminalise that, I am sorry, but that is law. Not only is the law made by man, that is a law made from the Bible. Why you think God made a man and a woman, man has what woman wants, and woman has what man wants, it’s as simple as that. I’ll fight tooth and nail to keep that law."
For lesbian and gay people who live in one of the 82 countries where homosexuality is criminalised, the world is not getting better: it is getting significantly, demonstrably worse. The irony – it’s actually not an irony, it’s a source of great shame, but it is also an unhappy coincidence – is that 40 of these countries are members of the Commonwealth, and this is a British export. Homosexuality was criminalised here in the 1880s, and was therefore part of our legislative package in the age of empire. By the time it was decriminalised in England and Wales in the Sexual Offences Act of 1967 (Scotland followed in 1980 and Northern Ireland in 1982), we no longer had any control over Commonwealth jurisdictions. The repeal came after a report by Lord Wolfenden in 1957; if its findings had only been enacted more swiftly, today unnumbered people across the Commonwealth – at an estimate, more than a million – would be living entirely different lives. Jonathan Cooper, CEO of the Human Dignity Trust, says: "The human misery that criminalisation causes can never be overestimated. The impact on lesbian and gay people growing up, you cannot overestimate what it does to people living under those laws, even if they’re not being prosecuted. Just the fact that the rest of society is denied to them, they have no access to it."…
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16 October 2011 – PinkNews
Andrew Mitchell: UK will withhold aid from African countries with poor gay rights
by James Park
Andrew Mitchell, the International development secretary has confirmed that the British government will withhold aid from countries with homophobic countries but denied that it will harm the most poor in those countries. Speaking to Sky News, Mr Mitchell said: “We have been very clear on this – where we think Governments do not have respect for human rights, it will have a big effect on the way we carry out this funding. Taking money away from Governments does not mean you do not support that country. You find other mechanisms for trying to help the poorest with food, education and health care as well as building up business structures..
“It is not about taking money away from countries but finding other mechanisms to help them. We take a very clear line. In a number of countries in Africa that discrimination against homosexuality has concerned us. In Malawi when they kicked out the British High Commissioner we looked at the whole nature of that relationship. We were aware there had been some expenditure by the President. We were aware there had been some lack of human rights – the intention to criminalise lesbianism – all took a part in my decision to stop funding the government centrally. What we don’t want to do is take money away from very, very poor Malawians who England, and particularly Scotland have a strong relationship with.”
Last week, the Mail on Sunday revealed that aid ‘fines’ may be imposed on countries such as Uganda and Ghana for hard-line anti-gay laws. Malawi, which sentenced a couple to 14 years’ hard labour for contravening anti-gay laws, has already had its aid cut by £19 million. But Mac-Darling Cobbinah, the executive and national director of the Centre for Popular Education and Human Rights Ghana, said the move would only bring “pain and anguish” to the struggling country. He added that the plans could backfire and lead to gay people being blamed for aid cuts. “We from Ghana LGBTi community think this is not enough. Cutting down aid will not bring anything other than pain and anguish to the already polarised society or country and LGBTi people will be used as scapegoats for under development in our countries,” he said.
October 25, 2011 – The Syndey Morning Herald
Ending sexual apartheid
by Michael Kirby
The whole world knows that the Commonwealth of Nations has a problem securing action on the legal issues of sexual orientation and gender identity. It is a specific Commonwealth problem, let there be no mistake. Of about 80 countries that still criminalise same-sex, adult, private, consensual conduct, more than half (41) are members of the Commonwealth. Given that there are 54 Commonwealth countries, that means three-quarters of them still impose criminal penalties on gay people. The fact that such laws exist leads to stigma, discrimination, violence and an awful lot of personal misery.
In the past year, there have been many reports of physical and verbal violence in several Commonwealth countries, including Cameroon, Ghana, Jamaica, Malawi and Uganda. Although all of the original Commonwealth countries have abolished such laws (the UK, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa) and India has witnessed a strong court decision holding them unconstitutional, most of the "New Commonwealth" has ignored or rejected reform. This includes even modern Singapore, where a Law Society committee recommended change but a bill was defeated in Parliament in 2008. So how do we move the logjam so that the river of reform will begin to flow again?
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It will not happen just because proponents of change feel angry, heap abuse on opponents and jump up and down. Nor will it happen because other countries of the Commonwealth have changed their laws. Changes we have seen in Australia in the area of racial discrimination bear witness to the pace of reform. It took many years to come about, but the process was definitely helped by the strong voice of leadership from the Commonwealth Heads of Government addressed directly to apartheid South Africa. And inferentially also to Australia and other ”settler” countries.
Until 1966, Australia observed the "White Australia" policy. This totally excluded non-Caucasian immigration. We were specially frightened of the Asian "yellow peril". We even imposed constitutional restrictions on our Aboriginal people, partly repaired by a referendum in 1967. Until 1992, Australians did not recognise the claim by indigenous peoples to legal recognition of their traditional lands. However, that logjam was dislodged. In my lifetime I have witnessed a major change for the better. It came about by quiet persuasion, good example and a bit of international pressure. So it will be with sexual orientation. It forces a kind of sexual apartheid. It divides people into strict categories. It ignores their basic natures (sexuality not racial). It imposes harsh legal restrictions. It makes them second-class citizens. It denies them full entitlement as human beings in fundamental matters such as love, sex and identity.
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October 29, 2011 – Salon
Gay Africans flee persecution – As Uganda revives anti-gay legislation, gays seek haven in other countries
by Naomi Abraham
I first met Fred at a prayer service for gay men in an industrial part of Nairobi where even on a Sunday morning, the noise was deafening. The service was part biblical study and part support group. The other men who were worshipping with Fred in the dingy and cavernous room that day were Kenyans, but he was not.
Fred, a lanky Ugandan, became a refugee in December 2009 after he was brutally assaulted by a mob in Kampala for being gay. Fred, who asked that his last name not be used, bought a one-way ticket to Nairobi days after the assault with the intention of never returning. “It’s OK to kill me,” he said. “People would be happy to see me dead, even some of my family.” I asked what he meant by OK, and he explained that no one would ever have to pay a price for his murder.
Within the last decade, rancorous anti-gay rhetoric has infiltrated public discourse in many African countries. Just last week, the Ugandan parliament revived a proposal to legalize capital punishment for people who engage in homosexual acts. This is new for Africa. In the past, homosexuality was rarely brought up privately let alone in the public sphere. The new acrimonious tone against homosexuality espoused by politicians and religious leaders has percolated across all strata of African society including the media. It has also given rise to increasing homophobic and transphobic violence, which for a growing number of gay Africans has meant that life in their own countries has become untenable.
Fred’s journey from Uganda to Kenya followed the same logic as that of other Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered (LGBT) African refugees I spoke to. They move to urban centers in neighboring countries not necessarily because these places are any less hostile to homosexuals but for the anonymity that comes with being a newcomer in a densely populated area.
Navi Pillay, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, went on record last May saying that anti-gay hate crimes are increasing around the world and now account for a high percentage of all reported hate crimes. Homophobia is not necessarily a new attitude for most African societies. Being gay is a crime in 38 of the 54 countries in Africa. Many of these laws have been on the books since colonial times. But it’s a stretch to think, as some have claimed, that homophobia is simply a vestige of colonial times.
Read complete article here
1 November 2011 – PinkNews
Commonwealth nations react to “ex-colonial” British aid threat
by Stephen Gray
Britain has been accused of bullying the Commonwealth nations as it calls into question aid structures for countries with anti-gay laws. A Ugandan presidential official, John Nagenda, told the BBC his country was “tired of these lectures” and that the Commonwealth nations should not be treated like “children”. Commonwealth nations are reacting to government plans to redirect aid away from central governments with poor human rights records.
International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell said: “Taking money away from Governments does not mean you do not support that country. You find other mechanisms for trying to help the poorest with food, education and health care as well as building up business structures” Mr Cameron told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show at the weekend: “Britain is now one of the premier aid givers in the world – saying that our aid, actually we want to see countries that receive our aid adhering to proper human rights, and that includes how people treat gay and lesbian people.” He was asked whether African countries would have their aid reduced if they did not reverse anti-gay legislation.
Mr Cameron replied: “We are saying it is one of the things that will determine our aid policy.” He added: “I think if you go back in our own country’s history, there was a time when we, you know till quite recently, discriminated in lots of ways. I think these countries are all on a journey and it’s up to us to try and help them along that journey, and that’s exactly what we do.”
Many pieces of anti-gay legislation around the Commonwealth date back to colonial times and British intervention, but are still in effect as homosexuality runs counter to countries’ cultural landscapes and prevailing religious beliefs.
Read complete article here
1 November 2011 – Fridae
African activists on human rights and aid
by Scott Long
Nearly 100 African NGOs and activists have appealed to the British government not to cut aid to African countries after British PM David Cameron threatened to seek to reduce foreign aid to Commonwealth countries which persecute gays.
This statement was issued on Oct 28, 2011 and co-signed by 53 organisations and 86 individual activists across Africa:
Statement Of African Social Justice Activists On The Threats Of The British Government To “Cut Aid” To African Countries That Violate The Rights Of LGBTI People In Africa
We, the undersigned African social justice activists, working to advance societies that affirm peoples’ differences, choice and agency throughout Africa, express the following concerns about the use of aid conditionality as an incentive for increasing the protection of the rights of LGBTI people on the continent.
It was widely reported, earlier this month, that the British Government has threatened to cut aid to governments of “countries that persecute homosexuals” unless they stop punishing people in same-sex relationships. These threats follow similar decisions that have been taken by a number of other donor countries against countries such as Uganda and Malawi. While the intention may well be to protect the rights of LGBTI people on the continent, the decision to cut aid disregards the role of the LGBTI and broader social justice movement on the continent and creates the real risk of a serious backlash against LGBTI people.
A vibrant social justice movement within African civil society is working to ensure the visibility of – and enjoyment of rights by – LGBTI people. This movement is made up of people from all walks of life, both identifying and non-identifying as part of the LGBTI community. It has been working through a number of strategies to entrench LGBTI issues into broader civil society issues, to shift the same-sex sexuality discourse from the morality debate to a human rights debate, and to build relationships with governments for greater protection of LGBTI people. These objectives cannot be met when donor countries threaten to withhold aid.
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2 November 2011 – Fridae
The reluctant Commonwealth
by Douglas Sanders
British Commonwealth heads of government meeting in Perth in October did not adopt sweeping recommendations for change that included calling for the repeal of anti-homosexual criminal laws. We are not surprised. But the door has not been slammed shut. Doug Sanders reports. British Commonwealth heads of government meeting in Perth in October did not adopt sweeping recommendations for change that included calling for the repeal of anti-homosexual criminal laws. We are not surprised. But the door has not been slammed shut. Doug Sanders reports. At one point the British Empire ruled over one quarter of the world’s people and its Navy ruled the waves. It was the largest empire in world history. British ships transported three million African slaves to the Americas before 1850. In spite of that commercial success, Britain led the Western world in abolishing the slave trade and slavery.
A remarkable aspect of the Empire was its slow evolution to what we now know as the Commonwealth of Nations. The US, of course, revolted, leaving the family in 1776. No other colony left the family by way of revolution. Latin America is full of states that had wars of independence, and Asia has some too, notably Indonesia and Vietnam. None in Britain’s Asian colonies. By 1931 the Empire was reorganised to recognise the factual independence that had gradually developed in countries like Canada, Australia and South Africa. In 1949 the present name “Commonwealth of Nations” was adopted. The Queen became the “head” of the Commonwealth, but it was decided that India could be a member, though it was a republic. The “Colombo Plan” was adopted, adding a development program to the body. Students from developing member states gained scholarships to study in richer member countries.
Post-war decolonisation, beginning with India in 1949, basically changed the organisation. It now has 54 members. The revolting US is not in. Nineteen are in Africa. Eleven are in Oceana. Ten are in the Caribbean. Eight are in Asia. Member countries have a total population of 2.2 billion. Of course, 1.21 billion are in India alone.
The Empire evolved first into a friendly club of the ‘white Dominions’ in 1931. It adopted a development focus after 1949. With decolonisation it became a predominantly third-world organisation. Could it become an advocate of human rights? It was deeply divided over sanctions against racist governments in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and South Africa. It has a history of censuring some countries for gross violations of human rights and democracy. It has suspended, at times, Fiji, Pakistan, Nigeria and Zimbabwe. It has broad policies on human rights and, in particular, against racism. But could it become a more active advocate of human rights?
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November 2011 – Building Global Democracy
Raising Our Voices: How Sexual and Gender Minorities Have Struggled for (and Gained) Inclusion in Spaces for Global Democracy
by Kim Vance
Movements of sexual and gender minorities have struggled (and succeeded) to raise their issues within important spaces of global politics. Advancing discussions on sexual rights, and more specifically sexual orientation and gender identity, has been challenging for these movements and their allies. Organizing globally and engaging with global norms and global institutions has significantly furthered recognition, respect, voice and influence for these marginalized groups.
Terminology and identity politics have shaped these movements and their strategies. Words like lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) are often used when talking about active exclusion and targeting of groups/individuals; however, not everyone identifies with ‘LGBT’ terminology. Equally, some are not comfortable with a language of ‘minorities’. Recently concepts of ‘sexual orientation and gender identity’ (SOGI) have become widely used in rights-based discourse. This terminology avoids reference to particular identities, as all people are entitled to sexual rights, and all people have a sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
Exclusion of sexual and gender minorities takes many forms. Sometimes the oppression is explicit, as when self-identified advocates are overtly silenced. Indeed, many states have perpetrated human rights abuses against these groups. Yet the exclusion of sexual and gender minorities can also be more subtle, as when ‘culture’, ‘religion’ and ‘traditional values’ are invoked to reject LGBT concerns. A climate of fear can surround anyone who might think to speak out. Yet at times, the exclusion of LGBT groups arises not so much because of the particular sexualities that they represent, but because they bring into the open contentious areas of sexuality and gender in general.
Marginalisation of sexual and gender minorities has also been extensive in regional and global organizations, where procedural obstacles have been imposed to prevent both their associations and their issues from receiving consideration. This exclusion began in 1993, when LGBT groups were denied official consultative status with the United Nations. It continues to this day with the 2010 rejection of observer status to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) for a pan-African lesbian group.
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08 November 2011 – ILGA
Opinion: A globalized LGBT rights fight
New international agreements show redrawing of decades-old battle lines. In 1994 South Africa included protections for sexual orientation in its interim Constitution — the first country in the world to do so. The following year the president of neighboring Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, condemned homosexuality as a perversion imported from the West. Having lost his credibility as a regional statesman and contemplating living in the shadow of Nelson Mandela, Mugabe used gay bashing as a tool to distract his citizens’ attention from economic woes and dwindling political fortunes. In lashing out at homosexuality, Mugabe claimed the mantle of spokesman for ‘authentic African culture.’ In doing so, he depicted South Africa’s approach to gay and lesbian equality as a symptom of cultural imperialism.
For decades this has been the dominant narrative in a globalizing world. The human rights of LGBT people have been cast as a preoccupation of the liberal West. The emergence of gay rights movements and the increased visibility of LGBT people are seen as signs of Western influence and the deterioration of local culture. In Africa this meant that homosexuality was seen as ‘unAfrican.’ But this is echoed in many other parts of the world where homosexuality is used as a way of identifying ‘insiders’ and ‘outsiders,’ ‘own’ and ‘other.’
But the past two decades have seen this simplistic narrative disrupted by developments in Africa, Asia and Latin America. And two important developments so far this year are further refuting that narrative. On June 17, South Africa introduced a resolution on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity to the United Nations Human Rights Council.
The resolution was adopted with 23 in favor, 19 against and 3 abstentions. This simple one-page document calls for a report by the UN High Commissioner and a panel to discuss the findings and suggest appropriate follow-up action. Although on the surface these are modest recommendations, it was a watershed moment. It was the first UN resolution to bring specific focus to human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
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