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Overview of Lesbians in the United Nations

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16th February 2011 09:12



A Short History of Lesbians in the United Nations

Mexico 1975
The First UN World Conference on Women fuels the lesbian movement. The lesbian caucus raises the question of the exclusion of lesbian issues from the agenda of the conference. The press publishes information on the “Lesbian Workshop,” an event held in parallel to the World Conference.

Copenhagen 1980
Second UN World Conference on Women. The organizing Committee of the Forum for the World Decade for Women approves five proposals for workshops on lesbian issues.

Nairobi 1985
Third UN World Conference on Women. The International Lesbian Information Service organizes seven workshops. The lesbian caucus formulates specific demands. To protect them from the local authorities, the head of the Forum has the lesbian workshop tent taken down, an act that puts lesbian issues in the spotlight. During the conference, the official delegate of the Netherlands talks openly for the first time about lesbian issues.

Vienna 1993
World Conference on Human Rights organised by the UN. Two Latin American lesbians testify publicly in the Court of Human Rights, telling the main obstacles encountered by lesbians in their lives.

Cairo 1994
For the first time, the expression “sexual rights” is placed in an official intergovernmental document for the Conference on Population and Development. The debate on sexuality was vigorous, but the term was withdrawn.

Beijing 1995
Fourth UN World Conference on Women. An international campaign succeeds in having lesbian issues included in the official agenda, and a lesbian “tent” is set up throughout the conference. The official Conference Committee discusses the expression “sexual orientation” for more than a week; the discussion and arguments attract the attention of the press. A South African lesbian testifies at the UN plenary in the name of the lesbian caucus.

Canada 1998
Anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights. 150 NGOs come together in the Global Forum for Human Rights and produce a document specifically dealing with sexual orientation and including in its final report recommendations from LGBT groups.

New York 2000 – Beijing + 5
Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations on the follow up to the Beijing Platform for Action. At the Millennium Summit of the UN, the eight Millennium Development Goals are established. Harsh debates were carried out for the inclusion of discrimination based on sexual orientation on the final texts. Though it was removed, some countries supported the inclusion of sexual orientation on the list of obstacles that women face, and so it was set down in the records.

New York 2005 – Beijing +10
UN Commission on the Status of Women conducts the ten-year review and appraisal of the Beijing Platform for Action. Lobbying by right-wing and conservative movements resulted in a political climate that was hostile to sexual and reproductive rights issues. Nonetheless, paragraph 96 of the Beijing Platform for Action could be reaffirmed, protecting women’s autonomy in decision-making about sexuality.

New York 2010 – Beijing +15
The UN Commission on the Status of Women undertook a fifteen-year review of the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. Emphasis was placed on the sharing of experiences and good practices, with a view to overcoming remaining obstacles and new challenges, including those related to the Millennium Development Goals. LGBTI activists and the ones focusing on sexual and reproductive rights and women’s health organized several workshops attracting the attention of the public.