Geneva, Switzerland, 13 June 2017. Last week, during his opening address to the Human Rights Council, the UN’s first Independent Expert assigned to protect against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, Professor Vitit Muntarbhorn, presented his initial report under the UN mandate.
The report finds that – even though human rights are inherent to everyone and afford protection for all persons without exception – lamentably, persons with an actual or perceived sexual orientation and/or gender identity diverging from supposed societal norms are at times targeted for violence and discrimination. The report is anchored in the belief that while diversity among humans should be recognized – “Diversity in Humanity” – it is essential under international law to harness and reinforce mutual respect, tolerance and understanding, compliance with human rights and a sense of humanity inherent in that diversity.
The report also lists six “underpinnings” – areas that, if addressed, can help establish a safer environment for LGBTI communities. These six underpinnings are: the decriminalization of consensual same sex relations, effective anti-discrimination measures, legal recognition of gender identity, destigmatization linked with depathologization, sociocultural inclusion and promotion of education and empathy.
The functions of the Independent Expert’s mandate includes plans for country visits, communications actions, addressing negative situations pertaining to SOGI and cooperating with a broad range of actors to tackle violence and discrimination based on SOGI around the globe. The first country visit was carried out in Argentina, in March 2017. The End of Mission Statement can be found here.
During the Interactive Dialogue that followed the presentation of the report, several countries engaged with the UN Expert, expressing support for the mandate and a desire to address the issues of violence and discrimination against LGBTI people in their countries. Other states were not as vocal; some simply acknowledged the report and asked vague questions to the mandate-holder. Regrettably, blocks of states restated their objection to the mandate and reiterated they will not cooperate with it, thus running contrary to the Vienna Declaration and failing to fulfill their duty to protect human rights for all persons.
The Independent Expert concluded the discussion by sharing the following statement:
“The preferred path to the future must be that of building bridges premised on prevention of transgressions, remediation for violations, participation of the concerned groups, and protection of human rights for all, resonant with the universal colors of hope and dignity – as our shared horizon.”