Human Rights Council review process:
opportunity to advocate for sexual rights
Since March 15th, 2006, when the resolution creating the Human Rights Council was adopted by the UN General Assembly, the Council have met in four sessions. The 5th session of the HRC will take place from June 11th to 18th, 2007, when it is expected that the ongoing HRC institution building process will be completed. Between now and then there are at least two important events related to the HRC review process: from April 10th to 27th, the meetings of the HRC Institution-building working groups and, in mid may, the election of the 14 States to the membership of the HRC (in replacement to the States that will retire on June 19th 2007). A key aspect of the HRC institution building process concerns the system of special procedures for the protection of human rights, which includes, among other mechanisms, the country and thematic reports prepared by the Special Rapporteurs.
In the HRC 4th session (March 12th- 30th, 2007) some of the thematic reports presented by Special Rapporteurs and debated in the plenary concern sexuality related issues. Examples are:
- Report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences (Ms.Yakin Ertürk) – A/HRC/4/34;
- Report of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights defenders (Ms. Hina Jilani) – A/HRC/4/37;
- Report of the independent expert on minority issues (Ms. Gay McDougall) – A/HRC/4/9;
- Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health (Mr. Paul Hunt) – A/HRC/4/28;
- Report of the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial summary or arbitrary executions (Mr. Philip Alston) – A/HRC/4/20;
- Report of the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (Mr. Manfred Nowak) – A/HRC/4/33;
- Report of the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief (Ms. Asma Jahangir) – A/HRC/4/21.
These reports are available on the Human Rights Council website, some of them were translated into UN languages.
Although the concerns raised in these reports as well as the inclusion of language on sexual orientation and gender identity – expressed in some of the country statements delivered during the HRC 4th session – are to be strongly appraised, sexuality related matters are still far from being adequately covered within the range of issues that are part of the agenda of the HRC. Moreover, when these issues are raised and debated, more than often they still create an atmosphere of controversy and the discussions that take place indicate that much misunderstanding still prevails in respect to the crucial relevance to better articulate sexuality matters and human rights frames.
The Yogyakarta Principles, developed and unanimously adopted by a distinguished group of human rights experts, from diverse regions and backgrounds, including judges, academics, a former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, UN Special Procedures, members of treaty bodies, NGOs and others, were launched during the 4th session of the HRC (see below). These set of principles provide evidence to show that human rights violations targeted toward persons because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity constitute an entrenched global pattern of serious concern. They are principles on the application of international human rights law in relation to sexual orientation and gender identity. They affirm binding international legal standards with which all States must comply. The Yogyakarta Principles are available in different languages, check it out!
LGBT rights advocates also had a strong presence during the 4th session of the HRC. They organized workshops and made statements pointing out to UN member-States and HRC Special Rapporteurs how sexuality related themes were or weren’t being adequately addressed within the various reports presented and debated during the 4th session. Some of these statements are available in the SPW website for download:
- Joint statement on the report of the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, delivered on behalf of the Sexual Rights Initiative and partners including 7 organizations engaged in human rights activism coming from Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe, Latin America, North America and Europe (1).
- Joint statement on the Report of the Special Rapporteur on Torture, delivered on behalf of the Sexual Rights Initiative and partners including 7 organizations engaged in human rights activism coming from Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe, Latin America, North America and Europe (2).
- Statement by Beto de Jesus for ABGLT (Brazilian LGBT federation) and ILGA-Europe which was read by Mauro Cabral (IGLHRC). (in Spanish).
- Joint statement by the Center for Women’s Global Leadership, Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era, the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network and the Asia Pacific Forum on Women Law and Development, on the report of the report of the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders.
- Statement by the Center for Women’s Global Leadership, on the report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences.
- Joint statement by Global Rights, Partners for Justice and Center for Women’s Global Leadership on report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to education.
Keeping an eye on the HRC review process: analysis and opportunities for advocacy work
Read the Human Rights Watch press release calling attention to some of the relevant debates and decisions that took place during the HRC 4th session. Among others, the release informs that “more than 30 states also supported the new `Yogyakarta Principles´ on sexual orientation, gender identity, and human rights”. It also urges the member States to ensure the necessary “energy and political will to get down to business once the institution-building phase ends in June.” (Geneva, March 30, 2007)
See proposal on the creation of a Special Procedure for identifying and closing protection gaps. This statement was delivered during the HRC 4th Session, as a contribution to the Debate on Institution-Building Working Groups, by Action Canada for Population and Development, Federation for Women and Family Planning, the International Alliance of Women and seven other organizations engaged in human rights activism coming from Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe, Latin America, North America and Europe (ARC-International/Switzerland-Canada; Center for Women’s Global Leadership/U.S.A.; Creating Resources for Empowerment in Action/India; INCRESE/Nigeria; Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice/Netherlands; Positive Women’s Network/South Africa; and Mulabi/Argentina). Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era (DAWN) has also supported this proposal.
Take action! Sexuality Policy Watch is among 7753 individuals and organizations that have signed the Global Petition in support of the System of United Nations Special Procedures for the Protection of Human Rights. Click here to learn more about this important initiative and to add your name to the petition!
:: posted in 10/04/2007 ::
(1) (2) The Sexual Rights Initiative: Action Canada for Population and Development (ACPD; Canada), Creating Resources for Empowerment in Action (CREA; India), International Centre for Reproductive Health and Sexual Rights (INCRESE; Nigeria), Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice (Netherlands).
Partners: Positive Women’s Network (South Africa), Mulabi – Espacio Latinoamericano de Sexualidades y Derechos (Argentina), Federation for Women and Family Planning (Poland).