Protecting LGBTI persons from violence and discrimination: the UN takes a historic step

FIDH at the UN
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Paris-Geneva - By adopting a milestone resolution on sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) days after the horrific attack that claimed the lives of 49 people in a gay club in Orlando, the UN Human Rights Council took a historic step to protect the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and intersex (LGBTI) persons, FIDH said today.

Throughout the world individuals suffer violence and discrimination on grounds of their sexual orientation and gender identity in every aspect of their daily lives. The societal stigma against is such that throughout the world, suicide rates of adults and children reach alarming levels. For fear of prejudice or persecution, many LGBTI people are reluctant to discuss the simplest aspects of their personal lives in social settings.

Discrimination remains prevalent in law. According to the International Lesbian and Gay Association’s (ILGA) index of sexual orientation laws there are still 73 States that criminalize consensual, private, same-sex sexual activity. In 10 States it is an offense punished by the death penalty.

Yesterday’s vote came after a long voting process and obstruction attempts by a group of states led by Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Pakistan and Russia, who attempted to use a procedural trick (a "no action motion") to prevent the debate from taking place. Multiple amendments were tabled, some of which, denying the universality of human rights, were adopted. The most dangerous amendments — aiming to remove the very expression "SOGI" from the resolution — were rejected. In the end, the resolution was adopted by vote with 23 in favor, 18 against and 6 abstentions [1].

The adoption of this resolution is a victory for the whole human rights community and for the Human Rights Council, which took an important step to protect all individuals from violence and discrimination. The resolution will set up the first-ever mechanism to systematically address violence and discrimination committed against LGBTI persons. It will appoint an Independent Expert on "protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity", with the aim of receiving individual complaints of victims of violence and discrimination, address concerns to States and make recommendations to them. It will also provide reports to the United Nations Human Rights Council to analyse the evolution of the violence and discrimination against the LGBTI.

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