"All people are not heterosexual. Heterosexuality is not superior and is not the norm by which all other sexual orientation and gender identities are measured." --Burnaby, B.C. Schools Draft Policy #5.45

Saturday, June 18, 2011

U.N. Resolution on Gender Identity

The United Nations Human Rights Council passed a resolution (A/HRC/17/L.9/Rev.1), introduced by South Africa, requesting a study 
to be finalised by December 2011 to document discriminatory laws and practices and acts of violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity, in all regions of the world, and how international human rights law can be used to end violence and related human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
The link to the minutes of the Human Rights Council's meeting is here.

Twenty-three nations voted in favor, nineteen were opposed, and three abstained.

Nations arguing against said that (1) the ideas contained in the resolution had no basis in or connection to international law; (2) this was attempt to create something new out of whole cloth; (3) these ideas should not be forced on other nations given their differing value systems.

Memorable statements in favor (descriptions of what they said from the minutes):

1. Jerry Matthews Matjila (South Africa): "Persons should not be subjected to discrimination or violence based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. The resolution did not seek to impose values on Members States but [seeks] to initiate a dialogue which would contribute to ending discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation or gender identity."

2. Juan Jose Gomez Camacho (Mexico): "It [is] a question of non-discrimination, not a new subject in the Council. Non-discrimination on grounds of race and religion and non-discrimination against women, the elderly and those with disabilities [are] values that stood fully recognized by all. Non-discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation [is] the same thing. Mexico [does] not share the views of colleagues that the Council would be imposing non-recognized rules. This [is] a human right."

3. Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe (United States): "Violence against any person on grounds of sexual orientation was a violation of human rights. The right to choose who to love was sacred. Each human deserved protection from violence. Moving forward with this resolution confirmed the aspiration to attain the best of human nature. The United States thanked the South African Government and its Ambassador for the consultative approach taken and its stunning leadership and looked forward to cooperation in implementing this exceptional step forward."

Transcript of US State Department briefing on the resolution, here.

One of Ambassador Donahoe's comments in the State Department briefing:
 I think it’s often expressed as an effort of, let’s say, Western countries to impose their values on more traditional cultures or different cultures. And I think what we’re seeing is that that’s a fundamental misunderstanding of what’s going on here. And our perspective is that these are core fundamental, traditional human rights. They are universal. They already exist. It’s not a matter of imposing these values on anyone. They exist and they – every individual embodies those rights. And this is simply reaffirming that regardless of one’s sexual orientation or identity, people all are endowed with these rights.
And I think that the conflicting narrative we have is between the idea that these are just core human rights for all individuals, that we are reasserting in a way that makes it obvious that they’re applicable to LGBT people versus this idea that I think is mistaken and will shown – be shown relatively soon to be an outdated idea that this is an imposition of Western values. I think that idea is losing steam, and I think more and more countries and people around the world are coming to see that these really are just basic universal human rights.

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