Promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development
Statement by Sexual Rights Initiative on behalf of the European Region of ILGA
The Sexual Rights Initiative (SRI) together with allied human rights, women’s rights, lesbian women and feminist organizations, welcome the report (A/HRC/19/41) of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on Documenting Discriminatory Laws and Practices and Acts of Violence Against Individuals based on their Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.
Sexuality is central to being human, therefore, sexual rights should be among the first issues to be addressed by the Human Rights Council. Sexual rights encompass, among other elements, the right of every person to sexual health, sexuality education, bodily integrity, personal and bodily autonomy, including the right to have control over and decide freely on all matters related to sexuality, reproduction, gender and gender expression.
The report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the 2011 report of the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders expose the harmful impacts on individuals’ health, equality, bodily integrity, dignity, freedom and reduced decision-making capacity resulting from criminal laws and other legal restrictions that governments frequently impose in violation of sexual and reproductive rights.
These include restrictions on sexual practice, gender expression, the criminalization of sex, desire, intimacy between people of the same sex and gender, restriction on freedom of expression and assembly and restrictions on access to full, complete accurate information on sexual and reproductive health.
Direct violations of human rights on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity are particular violations of sexual rights that prevent individuals from freely deciding on and having control over all aspects of their sexuality, reproduction and gender. The Council must build on the work started with the Resolution and begin addressing other sexual rights issues including issues of reproductive rights.
We note that some states have expressed the view that the Report poses a threat to African culture, tradition and values. However, the majority of states demonstrated that this is a long awaited human rights document that will guide the UNHRC to apply provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to survivors of hate-based homophobic violence in national jurisdictions, thereby noting this as a constructive contribution to the mandate of the UNHRC.
Our organizations believe that resolution 17/19 and report A/HRC/19/41 are of fundamental importance in securing the sexual and reproductive rights of LGBTI persons, in particular because:
- The report consolidates years of analysis by many UN experts, LGBTI non-governmental organizations. These studies jointly support the conclusion that criminal law is often an inappropriate tool for regulating sexual and reproductive health matters.
- The report concludes that the misuse of criminal laws and punitive policies in the area of sexual and reproductive health cause disproportionate suffering for women; people engaging in same sex sexual practice; people identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons; those living with HIV or AIDS; and other groups who already suffer discrimination.
- The report contains clear and detailed recommendations for States, including a call to immediately decriminalize homosexuality, harmonize the age of consent for both homosexual and heterosexual conduct, ensure that other criminal laws are not used to harass or detain people based on their sexuality or gender identity and expression, and abolish the death penalty for offences involving consensual sexual relations
Our own research and experience supports the conclusions of this report as well as the validity of its recommendations. We look forward to working with States to further the implementation of these recommendations in the fulfillment of their international human rights obligations and Responsibility to Protect.
We appeal to states to
- Stay in constructive dialogue on the issues that have been highlighted on the report and the resolution
- To accelerate public education and sensitization of state and non state actors on these issues
- Put measures in place to end hate based homophobic violence against people and citizens based on sexual orientation and gender identity
SRI is a coalition of organisations including Action Canada for Population and Development (Canada), Akahata (Argentina), CREA (India), Coalition of African Lesbians (South Africa), Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (Egypt), Federation for Women and Family Planning (Poland).