HRC Blog

LGBT Human Rights Activists Welcome Unprecedented Progress from the United Nations

This guest post comes from Jessica Stern, Acting Executive Director, International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission

At the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), we welcomed with genuine elation Thursday’s release of the first-ever United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights report on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity.  The report is a tribute to all of the activists who have fought for recognition of homophobic violence and transphobic discrimination over decades, often in the face of extreme hostility. It will serve as an invaluable aid to each one of us who seeks to advance LGBT human rights – not only at the United Nations but also in cities and towns around the world.

The report published by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navanethem Pillay, is the result of a Human Rights Council Resolution presented by South Africa and passed on June 17, 2011.  The resolution expressed grave concern at acts of violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The report itself documents widespread discrimination and violence faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people worldwide and calls upon States to apply the international legal framework to end these human rights violations. The resolution and new report are unprecedented in the history of the United Nations.

Among its most important recommendations is the report’s call for the decriminalization of same-sex relations between consenting adults. It notes the particular experiences of lesbians and other women who suffer violence, killings, rape and abuse, and includes a call for protection and recognition of the self-identified gender of trans persons. When the report was released, responses from IGLHRC program coordinators round the world poured in:  

From Grace Poore, Program Coordinator for Asia and the Pacific Islands:I hope that National Human Rights Institutions in Asia and the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission will use the report’s findings to rigorously respect and protect the safety and equality of LGBT persons throughout Asia and the Pacific Islands.”

From Hossein Alizadeh, Program Coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa:” In early November, the UN Human Rights Committee n told the government of Iran there is no excuse for discrimination. This report fully supports that message. The report will be of great assistance as we continue to challenge systematic homophobia and transphobia in the Middle East.  I welcome the UN’s increasing awareness of LGBT human rights.” 

From Jabu Pereira, Program Coordinator for Africa: “The release of this report sends a strong message to those African governments which continue to criminalize LGBT people under the guise of culture, religion and sovereignty. Violence in Africa is known to be a cruel and inhumane method of violating the most vulnerable. As we witness increasing hate speech and hateful laws such as the recent anti-gay marriage bill in Nigeria, we call upon all member states of the United Nations to continue the pursuit for equality and justice for all.”    

And from Marcelo Ferreyra, Program Coordinator for Latin America and the Caribbean: “Initiatives such as this report and its precedents at the Organization of American States manifest a clear intention to provide real and concrete solutions to discrimination and violence on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.”

The publication of this report, coinciding with the 63rd anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, reminds us all once again that human rights are for everyone, everywhere, and that no person should ever experience discrimination or violence on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

For more information go to, Communications contact: Roberta Sklar; 917-704-6358.

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