For the first time ever, the United Nations Human Rights Council this week passed a resolution to bring focus to human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
“You just witnessed a historic moment at the Human Rights Council and within the U.N. system with a landmark resolution protecting human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people,” U.S. ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe told reporters after the vote.
Here is the operative portion of the resolution. Read the entire document here (PDF).
Expressing 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
1. Requests the High Commissioner to commission a study to be finalised by December 2011, to document discriminatory laws and practices and acts of violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity, in all regions of the world, and how international human rights law can be used to end violence and related human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity;
2. Decides to cenvene a panel discussion during the 19th session of the Human Rights Council, informed by the facts contained in the study commissioned by the High Commissioner and to have constructive, informed and transparent dialogue on the issue of discriminatory laws and lractices and acts of violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity;
3. Decides also that the panel will also discuss the appropriate follow-up to the recommendations of the study commissioned by the High Commissioner;
4. Decides to remain seized of this priority issue.
The grave need for the present resolution was illustrated last year by the struggle required to restore “sexual orientation” to the UN Resolution on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions after an attempt by 79 mostly African or Middle-Eastern countries to remove it. Violence against people based on their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity is a worldwide problem that could benefit from coordinated international investigation and action.
A joint press release from 17 human rights organizations is below the fold. Reactions will be added below as they come in, starting with NCTE, National Center for Transgender Equality. You can read a transcript of the special Department of State briefing on the resolution here.
Historic Decision at the United Nations:
Human Rights Council Passes First-Ever Resolution on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
(Geneva, June 17, 2011) 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
Attachment (Records of Vote and Co-Sponsorship)
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.
Response from National Center for Transgender Equality:
For Immediate Release
June 17, 2011
Contact: Vincent Paolo Villano, 202-903-0112, firstname.lastname@example.org
NCTE Lauds United Nation’s Resolution to End Violence Against LGBT People Abroad
Washington, DC – Today, UN Human Rights Council issued a resolution that, for the first time, exclusively affirms the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people around the world. In light of increasing acts of violence and discrimination against LGBT people, the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) welcomes the resolution and thanks President Obama and Secretary Clinton for their invaluable work.
With a narrow 23-19 vote, the resolution builds on the UN’s 2008 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and empowers the High Commissioner to research and present findings on human rights abuses based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Under the guidance of the Council for Global Equality, of which NCTE is a member, the United States sponsored the resolution and had a critical role working with other nations to ensure its passage.
Mara Keisling, the National Center for Transgender Equality Executive Director said, “This resolution is a historic step in the global movement for transgender rights and strengthens our own work at home.” She continued, “I am proud of our country’s support of the resolution. President Obama and Secretary Clinton’s leadership here is among many examples of this Administration’s commitment to real change for transgender people everywhere.”
For more information or to speak with Mara Keisling, please contact Vincent Paolo Villano at
202-903-0112 / email@example.com.
The National Center for Transgender Equality is a national social justice organization devoted to ending discrimination and violence against transgender people through education and advocacy on national issues of importance to transgender people. By empowering transgender people and our allies to educate and influence policymakers and others, NCTE facilitates a strong and clear voice for transgender equality in our nation’s capital and around the country. The National Center for Transgender Equality is a 501(c)3 organization.
For Immediate Release
June 17, 2011
Statement by the President on the UN Human Rights Council Resolution on Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
Today, for the first time in history, the United Nations adopted a resolution dedicated to advancing the basic human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons. This marks a significant milestone in the long struggle for equality, and the beginning of a universal recognition that LGBT persons are endowed with the same inalienable rights — and entitled to the same protections — as all human beings. The United States stands proudly with those nations that are standing up to intolerance, discrimination, and homophobia. Advancing equality for LGBT persons should be the work of all peoples and all nations. LGBT persons are entitled to equal treatment, equal protection, and the dignity that comes with being full members of our diverse societies. As the United Nations begins to codify and enshrine the promise of equality for LGBT persons, the world becomes a safer, more respectful, and more humane place for all people.
United Nations Human Rights Council Resolution on Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity
Today, the UN Human Rights Council adopted the first ever UN resolution on the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons. 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 whom they love.
The United States worked with the main sponsor, South Africa, and a number of other countries from many regions of the world to help pass this resolution, including Brazil, Colombia, members of the European Union, and others. This resolution will commission the first ever UN report on the challenges that LGBT persons face around the globe and will open a broader international discussion on how to best promote and protect the human rights of LGBT persons.
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. The United States will continue to stand up for human rights wherever there is inequality and we will seek more commitments from countries to join this important resolution.