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UN 2004 - NGO statement: Transgender issues

in CROATIA, 27/04/2004

We call upon all the countries to address issues concerning denial of freedom of expression of person's gender identity and gender expression.

Statement given by Jelena Postic´ at the UNCHR, Geneva 2004.

Item 11.e: Civil and Political rights - freedom of expression

My name is Jelena Postic´ from Croatia and I am representing MADRE.

Distinguished members of Human Rights Commission,

The ICCPR (International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights) has established the right to freedom of expression.

We would like to bring to the attention the issue of freedom of expression in relation to gender identity and gender expression.

Although attempts are being made to promote gender equality of women and men, freedom of expression of one's gender is being denied on an everyday basis. People who express their gender in different ways from what are believed to be appropriate gender norms for men and women are suffering from overt discrimination and hate crimes all over the world. The concept of gender equality should be understood to encompass gender identity and gender expression.

Gender identity is meant as the individual's gender concept of self, not necessarily dependent on the sex they were assigned at birth. Gender identity concerns every human being and is not only a binary concept of either male or female. Freedom of expression of gender identity should include the right to gender ambiguity and gender contradiction.
Gender expression can be considered as the way one expresses oneself in external presentation and/or appearance through behavior, clothing, haircut, voice, body characteristics or other external marks.

It should be noted that gender identity and gender expression concerns every individual. Gender freedom, the right of each individual to express their gender in any way they choose, whether feminine, androgynous, masculine, or any point on the spectrum between, should be respected and moreover, appreciated as part of the diversity of human family and understood as integral part of many individual human beings' perceptions of themselves.

Freedom of gender expression is limited by gender norms that exist in every society and limit all of us. Variation of gender expression is severely punished on different levels. Examples of the discrimination people suffer range from women losing jobs when told to wear make-up and they refuse; boys taunted when not into sports; and men who are being perceived as feminine suffering discrimination in employment. Perception based on gender identity and expression can include severe abuses: arbitrary arrests, extrajudicial executions, murders, rapes, torture, and disappearances.

Violence directed at people transgressing gender barriers or challenging predominant conceptions of gender roles has been addressed by the Special Rapporteur on Torture[1], who has shown these persons are subjected to violence of a sexual nature such as rape or sexual assault as a means of punishment.

Official prejudice against people who break gender roles means that crimes against them go unpunished.
We call upon all the countries to address issues concerning denial of freedom of expression of person's gender identity and gender expression. We call upon governments to recognize and remedy human rights violations on the basis of gender identity and gender expression.

Thank you.
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