Welcome to the third edition of Advancing Equality, ILGA’s programmatic newsletter. As always, this newsletter will bring to you some of the highlights from our work at the UN and on Gender Identity and Gender Expression issues over the past few months.
There have been many conferences, workshops, publications, announcements and developments in the last seven months but we will do our best to round-up the most important news and jog your memories!
Cycle 3 of the Universal Periodic Review has officially started and in support of 12 human rights defenders ILGA, alongside COC, conducted another SOGIESC UPR Advocacy Week.
ILGA has had the honour of supporting the participation of LGBT civil society representatives from Russia making statements at this month’s Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
We have also launched three editions of the new Special Procedures Bulletin which includes sections on thematic and country reports presented by Special Procedures mandate holders and the latest communications by mandate holders.
We were sad to get the news that Independent Expert on SOGI, Professor Vitit Muntarbhorn has resigned from the position. We would like to take this opportunity to wish him health and support during this period. Please see ILGA’s statement regarding Professor Muntarbhorn’s resignation here. We are already working hard to make sure that the best person will be appointed as his successor!
Finally, we would like to welcome Callum Birch and Lara Goodwin to the UN programme who are interning with us for a few months. You may already be engaging with them, or perhaps will meet them at one of the upcoming conferences!
UN SOGI Coordination Meeting, March 2017
On 1-2 March 2017, ILGA helped co-organize a meeting in Geneva for 11 organizations from around the world that work on SOGIESC issues at the UN to both ensure better collaboration and coordination as well as avoid duplication of work. There were also discussions on various challenges faced worldwide, the opportunities present, as well as some of the strategies being pursued in advocating on SOGIESC issues in the contemporary scenario at the UN level: namely with upwards of 18 UN mechanisms and agencies such as the Human Rights Council, World Health Organisation, the SDGs etc.
A report of the meeting, is available on request from firstname.lastname@example.org.
World Pride Human Rights Summit, Madrid June 2017
The ILGA UN Programme participated in the International Human Rights Conference of WorldPride Madrid 2017, including speaking at a plenary panel on “How International Bodies can contribute to LGBTIQA+ Human Rights” on 28 June 2017.
Treaty Bodies: progressive recommendations on intersex and trans people, LBT(I) women and persons with disabilities
During this year, 14 sessions of the seven Treaty Bodies have already been held. LGBTI submissions have been provided for most of these sessions, and representatives of LGBTI groups from different regions attended them, many with the support of ILGA.
Here, we would like to highlight some of the most progressive developments and recommendations made on SOGIESC by UN Treaty Bodies from January–September 2017.
The 61st session of CESCR, which reviewed Australia and the Netherlands,  proved to be ground-breaking with Concluding Observations marking concerns about, and giving recommendations on, subjecting intersex children to medical interventions before they are able to provide full and informed consent.
CEDAW (LBT(I) women’s health needs and gender reassignment/legal gender recognition):
This year has marked two particularly interesting developments at CEDAW sessions.
In the reviews of Barbados and Ukraine, CEDAW paid specific attention to LBT(I) women’s sexual and reproductive health needs.
In the review of Germany and Montenegro CEDAW examined gender reassignment treatment and legal gender recognition procedures and made recommendations following written reports and presentations by civil society representatives.
CRPD (intersections between SOGIESC and disability):
Remarkable progress has been achieved by the CRPD. Apart from specific intersex references and general concerns and recommendations on LGBTI persons with disabilities, a new conception of “discrimination against persons perceived to have a disability” has been introduced in the Committee’s Concluding Observations. This was seen in the Concluding Observations of both Iran and Morocco. 
CESCR review of the Russian Federation
In October, ILGA had the honour of supporting the participation of the Informational and Monitoring Coordinator from Transgender Legal Defense Project (TLDP), in the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) review of Russia, as well as three other States, in Geneva.
Pushing for SOGIESC-inclusive interpretation of the UN Conventions: ILGA’s submissions for new General Comments
Our submission for CAT was related to its Draft Revised General Comment on the implementation of article 3 of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in the context of article 22.
Our submission for CRPD has been prepared in consultation with Transgender Europe (TGEU), InterACT: Advocates for Intersex Youth, Organisation Intersex International Australia, and the Russian LGBT Network.
Right now, CRPD has invited NGOs to provide their comments on the first draft of the General Comment on the right to equality and non-discrimination. The deadline is on 15 November 2017.
If you are interested in working on SOGIESC submission, please contact us (email@example.com)
“Can CEDAW Advance LGBTI Rights?” Event
ILGA participated in a discussion entitled “Can CEDAW advance LGBTI rights?” on 5 September 2017 organized by the University of Geneva where we discussed the strategies for the promotion of LGBTI rights at CEDAW with Marjolein van den Brink, Professor at Utrecht Law School and Ratna Kapur, and Visiting Professor at Queen Mary University of London.
We also looked at how can LGBTI rights be advanced while being sensitive to power relations in the postcolonial.
A video of the event is here: https://mediaserver.unige.ch/play/103265
New: ILGA’s Special Procedures Bulletin
A monthly Special Procedures bulletin has been created with the aim of providing LGBTI defenders with relevant information about upcoming opportunities, recent reports and calls for submissions. To date, three issues (July, August and September) have been prepared and distributed.
Each bulletin contains several sections including:
- Thematic and country reports that are presented by Special Procedures mandate holders during the Human Rights Council’s and the General Assembly’s sessions;
- Open calls for civil society input public consultations and upcoming country visits;
- Latest communications and statements by mandate holders on LGBTI issues;
- Appointments of Special Procedures; and
- A list of resources for advocacy with Special Procedures mechanisms.
During the 35th Human Rights Council session (June 2017), ILGA together with COC Netherlands, and in consultation with local groups, prepared and delivered a statement on the report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women.
The UN Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
ILGA has continued to work closely with Vitit Muntarbhorn, the UN’s Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity. We provided expert input for his two first reports – one to the Human Rights Council and one to the General Assembly; both can be found here.
In June, Professor Muntarbhorn presented his findings to the Human Rights Council and ILGA made a public statement welcoming the report
Unfortunately, in September Professor Muntarbhorn resigned for illness and family reasons. The effective date of his resignation is 31 October 2017.
As this position has now become vacant, ILGA has been keeping abreast of developments, sharing information about the vacancy widely and encouraging good candidates to apply. The deadline is on 11 October 2017 and full details on how to apply are here.
The new Independent Expert will be appointed on 4 December 2017 by the Human Rights Council. Back in August 2016, ILGA prepared criteria to guide governments in their appointment of a candidate. These can be found here.
27th UPR Working Group Session
With 114 SOGIESC recommendations, Cycle 3 of the Universal Periodic Review has officially started. 14 States were reviewed during this new cycle: Algeria, Brazil, Ecuador, Finland, India, Indonesia, Morocco, the Netherlands, the Philippines, Poland, South Africa, Tunisia and United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
Without a doubt, progress has been made during these working group sessions. States asked 25 SOGIESC advanced questions to the States under review. Morocco received its first ever UPR recommendations on sexual orientation. States addressed for the first-time recommendations on the prohibition of sterilization for legal gender recognition and prohibition on forced anal examinations. Two specific recommendations were made on intersex issues and 12 specific recommendations were made on gender identity issues.
In preparation of this working group session, 12 human rights defenders from Ecuador, Indonesia, the Netherlands, the Philippines, Poland and South Africa joined the SOGIESC UPR Advocacy Week. ILGA also technically supported defenders from Finland, India and the UK.
For a complete report on the Geneva advocacy, working group sessions and UPR outcomes please see here.
28th UPR Working Group Session
This Autumn, ILGA and other partners are preparing to receive 13 defenders from: Ghana, Peru, Republic of Korea, Switzerland, Pakistan, Ukraine and Sri Lanka.
They will be participating in our SOGIESC UPR Advocacy Week to talk with diplomats, UN staff and defenders from all around the world as well as being trained on the ins and outs of the UPR.
Be sure to tune into our social media to get a sneak peak of this new edition of the SOGIESC UPR Advocacy Week (9-13 October).
The UN Human Rights Council meets three times every year – March, June and September – to discuss and take action on a wide range of human rights issues all round the world. At every council, LGBTI issues come up for discussion in a variety of different ways and ILGA engages with them.
Three Human Rights Councils have passed since the last bulletin. Here are two highlights:
In June 2017, aside from working with the Independent Expert on SOGI (see the other section of this bulletin), ILGA also worked hard with other NGOs on advocacy related to the resolution on the protection of the family. We joined a statement publicly calling on the Core Group of that resolution to withdraw it or for members of the Human Rights Council to amend or vote against it. You can find the statement here.
In September, we worked hard with other NGOs on advocacy around the Death Penalty resolution to ensure that strong language was included on a range of issues including condemning the use of the death penalty for apostasy, blasphemy, adultery and consensual same-sex relations. It was a historic first for the United Nations Human Rights Council. More details are here.
ILGA prepares summaries of reports for each Human Rights Council session and engages at each of them in multiple ways. Further details of engagement at each session can be found here:
- March 2017, the 34th Human Rights Council
- June 2017, the 35th Human Rights Council
- September 2017, the 36th Human Rights Council
For information on the reports presented during the HRC 36, please check out this pre-reporting.
ILGA’s Gender Identity and Gender Expression Programme will be publishing its second Trans Legal Mapping Report. The report is a comprehensive record of laws, administrative procedures and processes that concern and govern trans and gender-diverse people around the world.
We are excited to launch the report at the upcoming ILGA-LAC conference in Guatemala, in November, and the ILGA-Asia conference in Phnom Penh, in December. Both of these conferences will also have trans pre-conference sessions so please keep an eye out for announcements on the conference websites.
We hope that the research contributes to data and analysis of trans rights around the world, and that our second report will be as useful to human rights activists, states, researchers and other interested parties as our first.
Training of Faith-based Organizations Women’s Rights Advocates in LGBTI Rights
ILGA helped train around 40 women’s rights advocates from churches around the world during the Lutheran World Federation’s “Women’s Human Rights Advocacy for Faith-based Organizations” in July 2017 that took place around the CEDAW session in Geneva. The training focussed on raising awareness of LGBTI human rights issues in multiple contexts, emphasizing their intersection with many other issues and highlighting ways that churches could engage in advocacy to support LGBTI communities. Details of the full training are here.
UN Mechanisms: Reflecting Lesbians’ (In)visibility and claiming space
At the European Lesbian Conference in Vienna in October 2017, ILGA, ARC and COC-Netherlands conducted a workshop which provided participants with basic information about Treaty Bodies and the Universal Periodic Review. The workshop identified key lesbian issues in participants’ countries and made plans for how these could be documented, effectively delivered to UN spaces and ultimately transformed.
UPR Advocacy Weeks
During the UPR Advocacy weeks, ILGA trains defenders from around the world in UN-related advocacy.
November 1-4, 2017: ILGA Europe Annual Conference (Warsaw)
The ILGA UN Team will be at the ILGA Europe Conference. We will be participating in workshops and providing one-on-one consultations on UN Advocacy.
November 16-19, 2017: ILGA LAC Annual Conference (Guatemala City)
The UPR Programme will be at ILGA LAC. If you want to talk with us about submissions, in-country advocacy, follow-up and the UPR in general. Look for us or write in advance to our UPR desk: firstname.lastname@example.org. We will be happy to allocate time to answer all your questions.
December 4-8, 2017: ILGA Asia Regional Conference (Phnom Penh)
The ILGA UN Team will be at the ILGA Asia Conference. We will be providing a training during the pre-conferences on UN human rights advocacy as well as organizing several workshops during the conference itself looking at the UPR, Treaty Bodies, and Special Procedures.
March 22, 2018: Deadline for submitting UPR submissions from NGOs in: Saudi Arabia, Senegal, China, Nigeria, Mexico, Mauritius, Jordan, Malaysia, Central African Republic, Monaco, Belize, Chad, Congo, Malta.
Newsletter prepared by:
 HRCtee – Human Rights Committee; CESCR – Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; CAT – Committee against Torture; CRC – Committee on the Rights of the Child; CEDAW – Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women; CERD – Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination; and CRPD – Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
 Ibid, para. 47(b).