A coalition of human rights organizations has issued a joint statement urging the United Nations to renew its human rights expert mandate on sexual orientation and gender identity.
The UN’s Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity was established in 2016 with by a narrow vote of member states, and was renewed narrowly in 2019. It is the only part of the UN that directly addresses issues pertaining to sexual orientation and gender identity. Its existence is currently up for re-evaluation and supporters of LGBTQ rights are asking for the IE SOGI to stay.
The IE SOGI acts as an independent party, separate from the United Nations, and “examines, monitors, advises, and publicly reports” on member countries that commit human rights abuses based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
The IE SOGI also works to minimize anti-LGBTQ human rights abuses by visiting areas where anti-LGBTQ discrimination is reported to be happening, addressing violence and discrimination faced by LGBTQ people — including extrajudicial executions, torture, and “enforced disappearance” — advocating for the repeal of laws that criminalize LGBTQ people, informing people of the damage of conversion therapy, and denouncing attempts to forcibly change sexual orientation and gender identity, including so-called “corrective” rape.
In the human rights organizations’ statement, which was circulated by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, the 1,117 signatories call for the renewal of the IE SOGI, arguing that its existence gives some protection to those targeted for violence or discrimination.
The ILGA said in a press release that a large amount of supporters for the IE SOGI is “evidence of [its] critical importance,” in helping support LGBTQ rights “both at international human rights fora and at the grassroots level.”
Just two people have held the role of Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity: Vitit Muntarbhorn, who held the pst from August 2016 through October 2017, and Victor Madrigal-Borloz, who has served in the role since 2018.
Of the 193 member countries of the United Nations, only 30 have legalized protections for same-sex marriage, and even fewer have legal protections for transgender, intersex, and gender-nonconforming people. Over 68 countries currently have laws criminalize same-sex consensual conduct, and 11 of those impose the death penalty for violators. More than 10 countries also criminalize diverse gender expressions and identities, and at least 4,042 transgender and gender-diverse people were reported murdered between January 2008 and September 2021. .
“Over the past 6 years the two mandate holders have conducted in-depth documentation of discrimination and violence based on SOGI through reports and statements; have sent over 100 communications documenting allegations of such violations in all regions; have carried out five country visits; have identified root causes; and addressed violence and discrimination faced by specific groups, including lesbian, bisexual, trans and gender diverse persons,” the human rights organizations’ letter reads.
“The mandate has also welcomed progress and identified best practices from all regions of the world, including in decriminalisation, legal gender recognition, anti-discrimination laws and hate crime laws. All while engaging in constructive dialogue and assisting States to implement and further comply with international human rights law and standards, as well as collaborating with UN mechanisms, agencies, funds and programs and other bodies in international and regional systems,” the letter continues.
“It is clear that this mandate remains essential. A decision by Council Members to renew this mandate would send a clear message that violence and discrimination against people of diverse sexual orientations and/or gender identities cannot be tolerated,” the organizations conclude. “It would reaffirm that specific, sustained and systematic attention continues to be crucial to address these human rights violations and ensure that LGBT people are in fact free and equal in dignity and rights.”
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