66 new LGBTI recommendations in six months: How UN treaty bodies protected our rights during the first half of 2023
There are nine main international conventions at the United Nations that guarantee various human rights to everyone. These human rights range from the right to life or freedom from torture to the right to adequate housing or health. Although direct references to lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and intersex (LGBTI) persons cannot be found in any of these conventions, these documents are considered ‘living instruments’. The concrete meaning of human rights is interpreted by treaty bodies (or committees) and expert organs of the United Nations. Each convention has its own treaty body, and each of them has clearly stated that the human rights of LGBTI individuals should be protected.
From January to June 2023, the nine treaty bodies issued 66 recommendations to various countries to protect the rights of LGBTI persons and to ensure the elimination of discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and sex characteristics (SOGIESC). We have collected all these recommendations and analysed them to assess the progress that has been made. This document briefly analyses each committee to recognise the primary themes and populations addressed during the first half of the year regarding LGBTI / SOGIESC. Additionally, it identifies the committees that have been most actively involved and examines the regional areas that have attracted attention from the treaty bodies.
What topics relevant to LGBTI people were addressed by treaty bodies?
The most prominent topics dealt with by committees within the domain of LGBTI / SOGIESC in the first half of 2023 were awareness-raising, same-sex unions, intersectionality, mental health and gender-based violence. Some attention was also paid to issues related to education, reparations, stereotypes, legal gender recognition and the collection of disaggregated statistics. Topics such as anti-discrimination legislation, bullying, prison conditions, racial profiling, access to sports, and the rights of LGBTI human rights defenders were also addressed by treaty bodies, though not frequently.
What LGBTI populations were considered by treaty bodies?
While in most of the recommendations, treaty bodies referred to ‘LGBTI persons’, some were tailored to the specific needs of trans and intersex populations. In addition, certain recommendations covered the situation of LGBTI children and youth, LBTI women and trans women specifically, racialised LGBTQI persons, and LGBTQI persons with disabilities.
In which countries did treaty bodies address the situation of LGBTI people?
LGBTI recommendations were made to 30 countries from different regions: Angola, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Costa Rica, Egypt, Finland, France, Georgia, Hong Kong, China, Ireland, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macao, China, Mauritius, New Zealand, Nigeria, Peru, Philippines, Portugal, Russia, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Togo, Türkiye, Turkmenistan, United Kingdom, Yemen and Zambia.
In addition, 19 countries were asked about LGBTI human rights for future sessions, which may lead to concrete recommendations. These countries are Argentina, Benin, Croatia, Egypt, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Lithuania, Malta, Namibia, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Rwanda, Serbia, Seychelles, Spain, Syria, and the United Kingdom. You can find specific questions and recommendations in ILGA World’s Database.
What did different committees do in relation to LGBTI human rights?
There are nine different committees, and each of them addresses different topics relevant to LGBTI populations in their recommendations and questions to states.
The Human Rights Committee addressed the topics of education, criminalization, same-sex unions, awareness-raising, legal gender recognition, trans issues, and the need for comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation. In particular, Turkmenistan and Zambia were urged to decriminalise consensual same-sex sexual acts. Namibia was inquired about any plans to protect persons in same-sex relationships from domestic violence.
The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights tackled various aspects of LGBTI rights, such as awareness-raising, access to sports, anti-discrimination legislation, and the criminalization of same-sex sexual acts. For instance, Kenya was questioned about measures to decriminalize sexual relations between consenting adults of the same sex and ensure that no one is discriminated against in accessing healthcare, other services, or rights.
The Committee against Torture delved into issues pertaining to sex characteristics and the rights of intersex individuals, legal gender recognition, conditions within detention facilities and prisons, domestic violence, and violence in general, as well as the situation of LGBTI human rights defenders. For example, the committee expressed concerns about poor detention conditions in Brazil, including for LGBT persons.
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women centred its attention on stereotypes and gender-based violence against LBTI women, unemployment, intersecting forms of discrimination, and legal gender recognition for trans women. For instance, the committee welcomed recent changes in legal gender recognition procedure in Germany, specifically the removal of requirements for surgeries, hormone therapy, or psychological counselling. Venezuela was urged to respect trans women’s rights to autonomy, self-determination, and legal recognition of their gender identity through a quick, transparent, and accessible procedure.
The Committee on the Rights of the Child addressed various aspects of LGBTI / SOGIESC, including legal gender recognition, trans children, intersex children, mental health, and the pressing challenges posed by cyberbullying and bullying. For example, Sweden was called upon to improve suicide prevention measures with particular care for children who do not identify with the gender assigned to them at birth.
The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has actively engaged in advancing LGBTI rights by addressing areas including anti-discrimination legislation, intersectional discrimination, and gender-based violence. The committee recommended Togo to amend its anti-discrimination legislation to recognise intersectional forms of discrimination, such as tose based on disability and gender identity.
The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination directed its attention towards racial profiling and intersectional discrimination as affecting LGBTI populations. For instance, Russia was called upon to adopt laws against racial profiling targeting marginalised groups, such as LGBTI persons, by the police.
The Committee on Enforced Disappearances directed its focus towards statistical information and reparations in relation to LGBTI communities. Zambia was recommended to collect accurate and up-to-date statistical data on disappeared persons, disaggregated by different factors, including sexual orientation and gender identity.
Finally, the Committee on Migrant Workers explored the topics of same-sex partners, criminalization, stereotypes, gender roles and the labour market, data collection, and the landscape of national legislation. The Committee expressed concern over the persecution of LGBTI migrants in Nigeria under the Criminal Code and the Same-Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act of 2014, which carries a penalty of up to 15 years of imprisonment. It recommended that Nigeria repeal criminal provisions targeting sexual orientation or gender identity and incorporate anti-discrimination legislation that includes the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity, among other measures.