Geneva, 21 October 2020 – Today, on International Day of Action for Trans Depathologisation, ILGA World releases the update to its practical guide for human rights defenders advocating for gender identity and gender expression issues.

The guide specifically focuses on engaging with one the United Nations’ Treaty Bodies: the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) – a mechanism formed by 18 independent experts that monitors implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights by its States parties.


Download the Advocating on Gender Identity and Gender Expression – The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights practical guide

in English – in Spanish


During the last few years, the Committee has been paying more and more attention to problems faced by trans people in different parts of the globe.  Moreover, its recommendations have the potential to foster change on the ground – especially on the right to health, education, employment, housing, sanitation, family, cultural life and scientific progress. By engaging with CESCR, defenders can obtain recommendations on these issues to help shape laws and policies in their own country, bring individual cases that will create jurisprudence to help trans persons globally, or even contribute to shaping the Committee’s own interpretation of the rights within the Covenant.

First published by ILGA World in 2016, this update to the Advocating on Gender Identity and Gender Expression – The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights guide contains a wealth of information on how to effectively advocate before the Committee: it highlights challenges while offering tips to overcome them, provides links to additional resources, and reflects on the recommendations and topics addressed by CESCR over the past five years.

“In 2014, CESCR referred to trans people’s situations 7 times in their recommendations to States. In 2019, there were already 17 such references”, explains Kseniya Kirichenko, co-author of the guide and Programmes Coordinator at ILGA World. “In my home country, Russia, a relatively simple and progressive legal gender recognition procedure has been established a few months after CESCR recommended Russia to do this.”

Human rights mechanisms within the United Nations are becoming increasingly aware of gender identity and gender expression issues, but there is still a long way to go to ensure that the UN recommendations are useful to populations on the ground. To see change happen in a meaningful way, however, the participation of trans activists in these processes is crucial.

“The current pandemic has demonstrated that trans people in all regions face specific challenges when it comes to social, economic and cultural rights”, says Julia Ehrt, Director of Programmes at ILGA World. “Many of these challenges – such as limited access to trans-related health care, gender-based curfew regimes or enormous level of unemployment – could be effectively addressed by CESCR.”

ILGA World hopes that this updated guide will be useful for the work of trans human rights defenders on the ground. A webinar to present the publication and its content will be organised in November 2020: further information will be published on ilga.org and on ILGA World’s social media channels.


Advocating on Gender Identity and Gender Expression – The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights: what’s new?

The 2020 update to the guide includes:

  • new recommendations and topics addressed by CESCR in 2016-2020, particularly in relation to health, education, employment, housing and water/sanitation
  • new procedures introduced by the Committee
  • recommendations on how to structure shadow reports, and links to report examples
  • more information on the procedure for individual communications, including on third-party interventions
  • new sections on family, cultural life and scientific progress
  • real-practice examples of trans defenders engaging with the Committee
  • updated list of useful contacts and resources

Countries/territories up next for CESCR review

Azerbaijan, Armenia, Austria, Bahrain, Belarus, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Cambodia, Chad, China, Czechia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Finland, Hong Kong (SAR China) Kuwait, Latvia, Lithuania, Macau (SAR China), Nicaragua, Panama, Portugal, Serbia, Uzbekistan.

We especially encourage defenders from these jurisdictions to use the updated guide to plan their advocacy!

More information about Treaty Bodies in ILGA World publications

More information on Treaty Bodies practice is available in our annual Treaty Bodies reports and strategic litigation toolkit.

Trans defenders may also use data from our Trans Legal Mapping Report for their shadow reports.