March 21, 2014
We, the undersigned non-governmental organizations and individuals present at the 58th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women, are outraged that, despite the United Nations’ decade-long commitment to anti-discrimination, governments failed to meet their obligations towards all women. They have done this by ignoring evidence of and broad regional support for sexual rights, the right to development, and the need to recognize a diversity of families, sexualities, and gender identities.
We are deeply disappointed at this attempt to render our experiences, communities, and families invisible.
We have been told that sexual orientation and gender identity are "too controversial" or that they have nothing to do with this year’s focus for the Commission’s debate: development. We know better. And so do the governments gathered here, though many appear to willfully ignore the evidence.
This year’s Commission on the Status Women takes place in the middle of on-going UN discussions about new, universally applicable, development goals, the Post-2015 agenda. This agenda must acknowledge the devastating impact of discrimination and marginalization in our lives everywhere. Study after study concludes that individuals stigmatized or targeted because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity face discrimination, violence and bullying that can force us out of learning environments. People assumed to be lesbian, bisexual, or trans* are kicked out of housing or denied employment, affecting our lives and earning potential. Legal and socially condoned discrimination against our communities marginalizes many of us, putting us at additional risk of violence, HIV, and other health problems. Discrimination and stigma further prevent us from seeking needed care. Too often, the result is preventable suffering and poverty.
We are outraged at the continued criminalization of our organizing and the relentless attacks on our human rights. These violations take place in all regions. Dialogue and democracy require respect for diversity, not criminal sanctions for human rights defenders, health professionals, and anyone who does not adhere to prevailing social mores. No one benefits from the criminalization of sexual orientation and gender identity. Quite to the contrary, as the World Bank recently concluded, hateful policies have both an economic and a personal cost.
We are incensed at the lack of recognition of these issues in the Agreed Conclusions of the Commission on the Status of Women. When world governments come together at the United Nations, they have an obligation to transcend hatred and build on existing knowledge. Instead, we have seen several governments perpetuate divisiveness and myths, and many more remain silent in face of political pressure and bullying. We all know that sexual orientation and gender identity have been an undercurrent in the discussions on a number of “controversial” issues. And we are tired of the willful ignorance, tepid support or overt bowing to geopolitical pressures that make simple recognition of our lives and communities impossible.
We are appalled by the political and ideological excuses put forward to justify the exclusion of language related to sexual orientation or gender identity in the Agreed Conclusions. Governments have already made agreements on many of the topics and issues that are being positioned as "most controversial" at the Commission on the Status of Women. The push to roll back language that has been agreed decades ago is disingenuous. In 2014, we know better. Our social justice movements have moved on and we need governments to catch up.
Everyone is entitled to human rights regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity. These rights are neither controversial nor negotiable. Development, equality, and enjoyment of human rights for all will never be realized if a small number of governments, as well as the Holy See, continue to deny the reality that people of all sexual orientations and gender identities are human beings.
Despite the attempt to render us invisible, we draw strength from the knowledge that we are anything but invisible. Throughout these two weeks at the Commission on the Status of Women, we have clearly, publicly, and repeatedly drawn attention to both the discrimination and marginalization we face and their devastating impact on development, as well as our global resistance and activism in the face of adversity.
And we are not alone. Delegations from several regions stood up for our human rights and for the need to overcome violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity in order to achieve any development goals. We are pleased to see the increasing support of certain states from global South. We are grateful to those who spoke up for the inclusion of our human rights, and we commend them for their leadership.
The Post-2015 agenda is meant to focus on sustainable development, a multidimensional concept that has ecological, economic and social dimensions, of which respect for sexual and reproductive rights and diverse sexualities and gender identities is a crucial part. We should not have to wait any longer to be recognized again in UN negotiations that directly impact our communities and lives. We refuse to be rendered invisible, or to have development policies touted as progress even as they ignore, marginalize or create further risk for us. We demand the creation of specific analysis and development targets for meaningful and equal recognition in education, work, governance, economy, social security and other areas of concern.
The recognition and fulfillment of the rights and needs of all groups, regardless of sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression, is a crucial step towards sustainable development of all nations. It is time for governments to acknowledge what we all know to be true.
ACDemocracia – Acción Ciudadana por la Democracia y el Desarrollo (Ecuador)
Advocates for Youth (USA)
Agrupación Feminista LGBTI ‘las insumisas de Lilith’ (Peru)
AIDS Action Foundation (AAF) (St. Lucia)
Alianza por la Solidaridad (Spain)
Articulación Feminista Marcosur (South America regional)
ASTRA Network and Federation for Women and Family Planning (Poland)
Atria, Institute on Gender Equality and Women’s History (The Netherlands)
Caribbean Forum for Liberation and Acceptance of Genders and Sexualities (CariFLAGS) (Caribbean regional)
Center for Women’s Global Leadership (USA)
Closet de Sor Juana AC (Mexico)
COC Netherlands (Netherlands)
Colectiva Feminista para el Desarrollo Local (El Salvador)
Consorcio para el Diálogo parlamentario y la Equidad AC (Mexico)
Cotidiano Mujer (Uruguay)
Diverse Voices and Action for Equality (Fiji)
Equidad, Centro de Políticas Públicas y Derechos Humanos (Per)
Equidad de género: ciudadanía, trabajo y familia, AC (Mexico)
Equis: Justicia para las Mujeres (Mexico)
Feminist Task Force (Global)
Fiji Women’s Rights Movement (Fiji)
FOKUS – Forum for women and development (Norway)
Fundación Arcoiris por el respeto a la diversidad Sexual AC (Mexico)
Fundacion para Estudio e Investigacion de la Mujer (FEIM) (Argentina)
Gestos, HIV, Communication and Gender (Brazil)
INTER-MUJERES (Puerto Rico)
International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS (Global)
International Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) (Global)
International Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans and Intersex Association Latin America/Caribbean (ILGA LAC)(Latin America/Caribbean regional)
International Centre for Sexual Reproductive Rights (INCRESE) (Nigeria)
International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) (USA)
International Women’s Health Coalition (IWHC) (USA)
Iranti-Org (South Africa)
Italian Association for Women in Development (Italy)
LACCASO, Latin American and the Caribbean Council of AIDS (Latin America/Caribbean regional)
Movimiento de Mujeres de Sectores Populares Luna Creciente (Ecuador)
Pacific Sexual Diversity Network (Tonga)
Pacific Feminist SRHR Coalition (Pacific regional)
Pacific Youth Council (Pacific regional)
Plataforma Nacional de las Mujeres (Ecuador)
PROFAMILIA (Puerto Rico)
Punto Género AC (Mexico)
Rainbow Rights Project (The Philippines)
Real People, Real Vision NGO (Georgia)
Realizing Sexual and Reproductive Justice (RESURJ) (Global)
Red Nacional de Mujeres (Colombia)
Red Salvadoreña de Defensoras de Derechos Humanos (El Salvador)
RSFL, Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights (Sweden)
RSFU, Swedish Association for Sexuality Education (Sweden)
S.H.E, Social, Health and Empowerment Feminist Collective of Transgender Women of Africa, Africa Regional Initiative (South Africa)
Society Without Violence NGO (Armenia)
Solidarity Alliance for Human Rights (Nigeria)
SPoD, Social Policies Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation Studies Association (Turkey)
Tonga Leitis Association (Tonga)
United & Strong (St. Lucia)
Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights (Global)
Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO) (USA)
World YWCA (Young Women’s Christian Coalition) (Global)
Adrienne Germain, President Emerita, International Women’s Health Coalition (USA)
Cecilia Espinoza, Ipas (Nicaragua)
Claire Tatyzo, YWCA (Australia)
Clara Fok, human rights activist (Hong Kong)
Cynthia Rothschild, independent activist (USA)
Jessica Notwell, YWCA Global (Canada)
Kate Tully, women’s rights advocate (Australia)
Lalaine P. Viado, independent activist/women’s human rights consultant (The Philippines)
Laurie Gayle, YWCA GB (United Kingdom)
Leigh Ann van der Merwe, S.H.E. (South Africa)
Marcia Banasko, YWCA GB (United Kingdom)
May Sifuentes, human rights advocate (Mexico/USA)
Nathalie Margi, human rights consultant (France/USA)
Nicole Duffau Valdes, lawyer (Chile)
Nive Sharat Chandran, YWCA of Aotearoa/New Zealand (Aotearoa/New Zealand)
Patricia Ackerman, Director of Women’s Studies, City College of New York (USA)
Sagrario Monedero, Alianza por la Solidaridad (Spain)
Sara Beatriz García Gross, feminist activist (El Salvador)
Sumie Ogasawara, YWCA of Japan (Japan)
Vanessa Brocato, JD, human rights advocate (USA)