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UN 2004 - NGO Statement: LGBT rights

in CANADA, 23/05/2004

The time has come to treat us with the equal dignity and respect that we know we deserve

Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network
Oral Intervention by John Fisher
Agenda Item 17

Thank you, Mr. Chair. It has been encouraging to see a number of States take firm positions of principle in support of non-discrimination and ending human rights violations against lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgendered people and human rights defenders.

We welcome the item 17 statements made by New Zealand and Canada, and all EU countries, with the exception of Italy. We appreciate the strong support shown by many Latin American countries, the leadership shown by South Africa in including sexual orientation as a ground of non-discrimination in its Constitution, and the increasing support for sexual orientation equality issues in a growing number of Asian countries.

But while there is increasing support cross-regionally for sexual orientation and gender identity issues, our rights continue to be violated in regions around the world.

Sunil Babu Pant, a gay man from Nepal, was to have addressed this Commission but has had to return to Nepal. He has asked me to highlight specific concerns about the culture of impunity in his country which allows law enforcement agencies to target anyone who expresses their sexuality or gender identity.

Recently on 6th December 2003 two metas, or men who have a feminised manner were picked up by some men from the armed police, and taken to an isolated location where they were raped by more than 10 policemen and thereafter beaten. Then they were dumped because they were presumed dead. They were found with their hands tied and barely alive. The NGO Blue Diamond Society which works for sexuality and gender orientation rights took them to the hospital.
While attempting to institute a complaint, they were faced with statements from police like "metas deserve to be raped, so why should a case be instituted for such rape".

Also two lesbian women were being forced by their families to marry men. They were constantly harassed and faced violence because of their refusal. Ultimately Mira was forced to attempt suicide. When the Blue Diamond Society gave them shelter and support, the family of both colluded with the police and instituted false cases of trafficking against the Society as well as the ridiculous of charge of converting their daughters to Hijras [or intersexed persons]. The Society also faced threats of murder, and the police have taken no action.

We could cite examples from other regions, but suffice it to say that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered rights are routinely abused in countries around the world and demand attention from this Commission.

In the context of the resolution on extrajudicial executions, it has been particularly disheartening to witness States responsible for the torture and death of their own gay and lesbian citizens argue against the inclusion of
sexual orientation, and vow to call for a paragraph vote because of its inclusion.

In a Human Rights Watch report on torture and killings of homosexuals in Egypt, Naguib speaks of the death of his lover of 7 years in police custody, saying:

"The treatment that I received, that my lover Shebl received - how could a human soul be so cheap to these people? You don't know what this person was to me. Somebody you love, and you lose him in a moment - and what I want to ask is, why? This person who died - did he actually do anything wrong? . Who do we harm? Why do they hate us? Why?"

We call on all States to support the inclusion of sexual orientation in this resolution. In matters of human rights, there are no by-standers. Let us send a clear message as an international community that no-one should be killed because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Finally, we note that the Brazilian resolution on sexual orientation and human rights has been deferred for a year, and we are pleased that the issue remains squarely on the Commission's agenda. This issue will never go away. The time has come to treat us with the equal dignity and respect that we know we deserve.
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