For the Press
Astraea Welcomes First UN Report on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
December 15th, 2011
Media and Communications Officer
Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice
NEW YORK, NY—The Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice enthusiastically welcomes the groundbreaking human rights report issued by the United Nations (UN) Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights this morning. Long overdue, this report is the first ever UN report to document violence, discrimination and human rights abuses based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Although parts of the UN system have increasingly addressed these issues for the last two decades, the report is the first from the UN system to focus specifically on sexual orientation and gender identity. This landmark document unequivocally affirms that the protections guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights apply to all, regardless of identity. It gives an overview of the many violations LGBT people face in both the global North and South. From killings, rape, torture and arbitrary arrest to discrimination in health care, employment and education, this study highlights violations and calls for an end to persecution of activists and their organizations.
Astraea Executive Director J. Bob Alotta noted the report’s focus on experiences of traditionally marginalized people. “Around the world, lesbians, transgender people, and others face violations because of who they love, what they look like, or because of their activism. It’s time for states to put an end to this violence and discrimination.” Historically, women and LGBT people do not report the violations they face because it is not safe to do so. Lesbians in particular often face further abuses from police, family or community members and religious or cultural authorities.
Astraea board member Cynthia Rothschild, who made contributions to the report, notes that the study “is actually a product of decades of activism, and the result of LGBT people from around the world making courageous claims for their own rights and the rights of others who are persecuted because of gender and sexuality.”
Every day, Astraea grantee partners around the world are engaged in creative acts of resistance. The programming and advocacy of hundreds of groups, including those partnered with Astraea, have helped to make this report possible, in part through normalizing these human rights concerns in their own countries. “It’s their advocacy that makes this kind of UN effort possible,” said Alotta.
This review was commissioned through a resolution put forward by South Africa with cross regional support in June, 2011 at the UN’s Human Rights Council in Geneva. It will be discussed at a Council session in March of 2012 which will be the first UN debate specifically devoted to the rights of LGBT people. With this report, states are committing to the principle that human rights are universal, and that all people, without exception, are entitled to enjoy the full range of human rights. The study makes recommendations to governments, including ensuring that violence, including rape, is investigated and perpetrators are held accountable; that anti-discrimination laws address sexual orientation and gender identity; and that laws used to persecute LGBT people are repealed.
The report’s release today and the future work of the UN to demand government action and implementation of LGBT human rights protection marks a new moment for human rights. It recognizes that the urgent needs of LGBT communities facing violence and discrimination have long been ignored. “Countering discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity should be non-controversial”, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has stated. “We are not trying to create new rights or extend human rights into new, uncharted territory. What we are doing is insisting that all people are entitled to the same rights and to the equal protection of international human rights law.”
To read the UN Report on violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, click here.
ABOUT THE ASTRAEA LESBIAN FOUNDATION FOR JUSTICE
Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice works for social, racial, economic and gender justice in the U.S. and internationally. Our grantmaking and philanthropic advocacy programs help lesbians and allied communities challenge oppression and claim their human rights. www.astraeafoundation.org