U.N. Human Rights Council Votes in Favor of Independent Expert to Protect LGBTQ People Worldwide

by Milagros Chirinos

The resolution passed 27 to 12 with 7 abstentions during the 41st session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Today, HRC celebrated the United Nations Human Rights Council’s vote to renew for a second three-year term the mandate of the U.N. Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity (IE SOGI). The resolution passed 27 to 12 with 7 abstentions during the 41st session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva. 

Earlier this month, HRC joined more than 1,316 organizations from 174 countries and territories in a letter of support calling for the renewal of the mandate.

“As LGBTQ people around the world face unprecedented challenges and the rolling back of previously secured protections -- including by the Trump-Pence administration in the United States -- it is heartening that the United Nations has taken this bold step once again to protect our communities from violence and discrimination,” said HRC Director of Global Partnerships Jean Freedberg. “Today’s vote ensures that the vital work begun by Vitit Muntabhorn and Victor Madrigal-Borloz on behalf of LGBTQ people will continue, and that countries will be held accountable to protect their LGBTQ citizens. Yet even as we celebrate this victory, there is so much more to be done to truly protect even the most vulnerable among us, including transgender and intersex people -- and to advance our path towards full equality.”

Established in 2016 by the U.N. Human Rights Council, the IE SOGI, working collaboratively with U.N. and regional leaders, has helped nations develop policies and actions to protect people from discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The Independent Expert  oversees the implementation of international human rights law, raises awareness, engages in dialogue with stakeholders and provides advisory and technical assistance. 

Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the current mandate holder, has led this effort by analyzing barriers created by criminalization, pathologization and stigma while assessing crises through an intersectional lens that respects local strategies. He is the second person to assume the role, following the leadership of Thai human rights expert Vitit Muntarbhorn who stepped down in 2017.

For the past year, global advocates have lobbied to secure the renewal of the mandate by the 47 member states of the Human Rights Council. And now with this successful vote, these efforts will, as suggested in a recent report, further cement “the emerging conceptual frameworks of [sexual orientation and gender identity] as part of international human rights law,” and send a signal around the world that the momentum for equality is unstoppable.