Considerations about the Principles
By Mauro Cabral*
The Yogyakarta Principles are the outcome of a long and difficult historical process through which the diversity of bodies, identities, sexualities and genders has been progressively infused in the overarching framework of the international human rights principles.
The text of the Principles makes clear that normative principles established by this framework can be used to address a wide variety of situations and issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity, including the right to be protected from arbitrary detention and torture and to fully exercise the right to health, to education and to work without discrimination. Additionally, the Principles extend the usual interpretation of the human rights framework to include normative guidelines to ensure the right to constitute a family and to fully participate in cultural and political life.
Nevertheless the Yogyakarta Principles also advance novel aspects that expand the horizon of understanding and interpretation beyond its original expectations. For instance, the gender perspective that grounds the elaboration of the Principles is based on the recognition of cultural and historical contingencies determining the “man – woman” binary, as well as of the undeniable diversity of genders that exist across the world. This denaturalization of the gender binary allows for de-constructing the automatic and unrelenting institutionalized efficacy with which “the human” is made synonymous with “binary sexual difference”. By expanding the boundaries of “incarnate genders” the Principles enlarge the meaning of gendered humanity. This deconstructive operation makes it possible to recognize dimensions that were not previously addressed by the human rights framework. This can be exemplified by the widespread practice of non-consented surgeries performed on infants aimed at “normalizing ” the appearances of genitals when they do not conform with the dominant standard of sexual difference. The call for States to recognize gender identity as a non pathological individual experience is another illustration of this deconstructive perspective with regard to the medicalization of bodies, sexualities, identities and expressions, which challenge hegemonic political and cultural norms.
Although “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” are usually applied in immediate association with the so–called LGBT communities and movements, the Principles try to avoid the identification of privileged and private subjects to which they are to be applied. Instead they are framed in terms of identifying the situations in which any person can be the subject of human rights violations due to sexual orientation or gender identity independently of the person’s self–identification or how the person is identified by others.
The very existence of the Yogyakarta Principles unequivocally marks a fundamental breakthrough in matters related to human rights. But their existence by itself will not transform the conditions that make them indispensable. The task we face is to transform what until now is only text into realities.
* Mauro Cabral participated in the elaboration of the Yogyakarta Principles and he is from the Universidad Nacional de Córdoba and Mulabi – Espacio Latinoamericano de Sexualidades y Derechos
:: Posted in 12/07/2007 ::