The Sexual Rights Initiative (SRI) is a coalition of organizations from Canada, Poland, India, Egypt, Argentina and South Africa that have been advocating together for the advancement of human rights related to gender, sexuality and reproduction at the UN Human Rights Council since 2006. We are committed to and strongly in support of rights related to sexual orientation, gender identity and expression. Many of us are directly affected as people who are non-conforming in terms of our gender identity and expression and our sexual orientation.
We work together to encourage the UN and Member States to protect and promote the human rights of all people to bodily integrity and autonomy, and the rights to have full control over and to decide freely upon all matters related to our sexual lives, reproductive lives, sexual and reproductive health, gender expression and identity and our bodies, free from coercion, violence or discrimination. These rights affect everyone, everywhere. Failure to protect these rights has grave consequences for those of us who are criminalised or subject to other forms of punitive regulation based on our sexuality and gender.
Presently, a number of UN Member States and NGOs are advocating for the Human Rights Council to create a new Special Rapporteur on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI). From the perspective of the SRI, the proposed mechanism would be limited in its ability to protect the fundamental rights of people most in need and risks neglecting a range of sexuality and gender related abuses that demand the UN’s attention. Further, it could create false dichotomies and siloes within the interpretation and application of human rights related to sexuality and gender that could set back decades of hard work and progress made on these issues by diverse social movements.
The SRI believes the violations, abuses, discrimination and oppression faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) persons would be most effectively addressed through a political and legal framing that recognizes the full range of sexual rights as inherent to the constellation of human rights to which every person is entitled. Furthermore, the SRI believes that the articulation of this position at the UN and within various movements is important so that States and civil society actors have an opportunity to consider alternate analyses and viewpoints. This articulation is not intended to and should not be seen to diminish the areas of agreement between progressive movements working on gender and sexuality issues, rather it is healthy part of movement building that seeks to include the experiences of different people, many of whom will be directly impacted by the establishment of any new UN special mechanism.
The Sexual Rights Initiative therefore makes the following recommendations to continue the political and social momentum to effectively integrate human rights related to sexuality orientation and gender identity into the work of the Council:
The Human Rights Council should build on and strengthen the existing thematic resolution on sexual orientation and gender identity by expanding its scope and to guide existing mechanisms in their continuing work on bodily integrity and autonomy for all people, including LGBTI persons and those who are non- conforming in terms of their sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.
The resolution should mandate the OHCHR to investigate the root causes of discrimination, violence and other violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression, and expand the analysis to include legal and social practices that empower as well as laws and policies restricting bodily integrity and autonomy for a range of people, including sex workers, members of LGBTI communities, women seeking abortion, adolescents, HIV-positive persons and transgender persons, and others stigmatised because of their sexual and gender expressions or behaviours.
Progressive states from across all regions of the world should envision and plan for a Working Group or similar mechanism on “Human Rights related to Sexuality and Gender”, or a variation thereof, that approaches sexuality and gender from a holistic and intersectional perspective. This would be best advanced through a cross-regional core group led by states already working on some of the most complex sexual rights issues.
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