WGNRR's statement for the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia

MAY 17 - International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia

WGNRR demands the protection of the human rights of LGBTQI[1] individuals and allied human rights defenders, calling for the protection of the right to freedom of expression and the revocation of any discriminatory law against them

This May 17, 2014, we at the Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights (WGNRR) join our voices with LGBTQI individuals and human rights activists worldwide in calling for respect of the right to freedom of expression, both of LGBTQI individuals and allied human rights defenders.

In particular we denounce anti-gay and discriminatory legislation, such as the federal Anti-LGBT Propaganda Law in Russia, as well as the recently passed Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act in Nigeria, and the Anti-Homosexuality Law in Uganda, all of which criminalize advocacy and support for the rights of the LGBTQI community.[2]

Any law that prohibits any advocacy or support for the rights of LGBTQI individuals violates the basic rights to freedom of expression, conscience, association, and assembly, as well as internationally recognized protections against discrimination on any grounds. These kinds of laws encourage, reinforce, and aggravate stigma and prejudice through the institutionalization of discrimination against the LGBTQI community, rendering void all promised protections enshrined in national Constitutions and international human rights treaties. Such laws also place LGBTQI rights defenders, in particular those who are underage, at risk of targeted and ongoing persecution, including abuse and violence, as noted by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.[3]

It is important to highlight that women human rights defenders[4] (WHRDs) who work on sexual and reproductive rights issues are particularly at risk of grave consequences, as they are often perceived to be “challenging accepted socio-cultural norms, traditions, perceptions and stereotypes about femininity, sexual orientation, and the role and status of women in society,” as said by several United Nations Special procedures.[5]

As noted by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, persons of diverse sexual orientation and gender identity as well as their human rights defenders are at risk of homophobic and transphobic violence in all regions of the world, including coercion, threats, house or office raids, beatings, murder, rape and sexual assault, among other forms of violence and abuse.[6] And as outlined in the ICPD Beyond 2014 Global Report,[7] ongoing “structural violence in the form of homonegativity marginalizes and dehumanizes persons of diverse sexual orientation and gender identity, hindering their capacity to fully contribute to society, and denying them the civil rights that are typically afforded to other persons.”[8]

Any laws that that circumscribe and/or criminalize the right to freedom of expression of LGBTQI individuals and allied activists advocating for LGBTQI rights will only serve to reinforce existing climates of hatred and intolerance, placing them at risk of continued harassment and various forms of violence. These kinds of laws violate governments’ most basic obligations to the rights and wellbeing of their populations, and in the 21st century are unacceptable and unjustifiable.

We thus urge governments all over the world to:

·      Fulfill their international and regional human rights obligations to protect, respect and guarantee the human rights of LGBTQI individuals and allied human and sexual rights defenders.

·      Conform their domestic laws to the international treaties and human rights standards, especially in countries like Nigeria, Uganda and Russia, towards ensuring meaningful protection of LGBTQI individuals’ human rights.

·      Take all measures necessary to repeal these laws, which establish a new and totally undemocratic level of policing private life, and leave them without effects immediately.

·      Take all measures necessary to ensure the effective protection of LGBTQI individuals and human and sexual rights defenders from harassment, violence and discrimination, and the immediate release of incarcerated LGBTQI advocates and activists.

It is high time for LGBTQI communities and their defenders worldwide to live lives free from violence and discrimination.  Join us in the fight to create more inclusive societies embracing the human rights of dignity and equality, where people of all sexual orientations and gender identities are accepted and celebrated!

[1]In using the term LGBTQI, we refer to individuals who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and/or intersex, as well as individuals of other diverse sexual orientations and gender identities.

[2]In addition to criminalizing LGBTQI advocacy, the recently adopted laws in Nigeria and Uganda also criminalize and impose harsh sentences for homosexual acts. 

[3] See UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, “Concluding observations on the combined fourth and fifth periodic reports of the Russian Federation,” CRC/C/RUS/CO/4-5, 31 January 2014, par. 24 and 25.

[4]By Women’s Human Rights Defenders (WHRDs), we refer to “women and girls, in every corner of the world, who actively work to defend their own rights and the rights of others, as well as a range of other activists of all sexualities who also defend the rights of women,” as defined by the Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition (WHRD IC). Definition retrieved from WHRD IC (2014), “The WHRD Movement,” retrieved 15 May 2014 from http://defendingwomen-defendingrights.org/about/the-whrd-movement/.

[5]See UN Report “Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and Human Rights Defenders,” E/CN.4/2001/94, 26 January 2001, para. 89 (g); and “Report of Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Margaret Sekaggya,” A/HRC/16/44, 20 December 2010.

[6]See UNHCHR Report “Discriminatory laws and practices and acts of violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity,” A/HRC/19/41, 17 November 2011,para. 20, 28, and 30.

[7]The ICPD Beyond 2014 Global Report is the culmination of a landmark UN review of progress, gaps, challenges and emerging issues in relation to the 1994 ICPD Programme of Action adopted in Cairo. It gathers data from 176 member states, alongside inputs from civil society and comprehensive academic research.  To learn more, visit http://icpdbeyond2014.org/about/view/29-global-review-report.

[8]ICPD Beyond 2014 Global Report (2014), p. 86-87, retrieved 15 May 2014 from http://issuu.com/shiralevine/docs/icpd_review_global_report_a_69_62_e.