Another milestone in an already hugely significant year.

As the year winds to a close the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has released a report on “Discriminatory laws and practices and acts of violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity” that is pretty earthshaking by UN standards. Considering that so many countries who are UN members criminalize same-sex activity and/or relationships – in some cases with the death penalty it is almost remarkable that the High Commissioner has taken such an unequivocal stand in the subject.

The report is available online in PDF format and can be downloaded here. It makes the position of the UN very clear:

In all regions, people experience violence and discrimination because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. In many cases, even the perception of homosexuality or transgender identity puts people at risk. Violations include but are not limited to killings, rape and physical attacks, torture, arbitrary detention, the denial of rights to assembly, expression and information, and discrimination in employment, health and education. United Nations mechanisms, including human rights treaty bodies and the special procedures of the Human Rights Council, have documented such violations for close to two decades.

The report notes what so many nations have failed to note – that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights also applies  to LGBT people.

The application of international human rights law is guided by the principles of universality and non-discrimination enshrined in article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that
all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and . All people, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons, are entitled to enjoy the protections provided for by international human rights law, including in respect of rights to life, security of person and privacy, the right to be free from torture, arbitrary arrest and detention, the right to be free from discrimination and the right to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly. The Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action confirms that, while the significance of national and regional particularities and various historical, cultural and religious backgrounds must be borne in mind, it is the duty of States, regardless of their political, economic and cultural systems, to promote and protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms.”3

It goes on to point out that though sexual orientation or gender identity might not be specifically spelled out in UN documents as a grounds for protection, like age, marital status and numerous other grounds, they are covered :

The specific grounds of discrimination referred to in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and other human rights treaties are not exhaustive. The drafters intentionally left the grounds of discrimination open

The specific grounds of discrimination referred to in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and other human rights treaties are not exhaustive. The drafters intentionally left the grounds of discrimination open

by using the phrase “other status. Sexual orientation and gender identity, like disability, age and health status, are not explicitly mentioned among the grounds listed in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights or the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. In 1994, in the case of , the Human Rights Committee held that States are obligated to protect individuals from discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientationThis position is reflected in later decisions of the Committee and in general comments of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Committee on the Rights of the Child, the Committee against Torture and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.6

For those who think the argument for protection is purely philosophical, the report documents the disturbing reality that LGBT people lose their lives  simply  for being who they are – including one incident in Jamaica.

Since 1999, the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions has regularly referred to persons being subjected to death threats or killed because of sexual orientation and gender identity.

The current mandate holder recently highlighted the murders of at least 31 LGBT persons in Honduras during an 18-month period, including a transgender person found dead in a ditch, her body beaten and burned, showing evidence of rape and blows to her face from stoning so severe as to render the remains virtually unrecognizable.In Jamaica, a man was allegedly stabbed and stoned to death after police, who reportedly participated in the attack, urged others to beat him because he was homosexualThe Special Rapporteur on violence against women has highlighted the targeted murder of lesbians in South Africa, including a case in which two lesbians were beaten, stoned and one stabbed to death

LGBT persons are also among the victims of so-called
honour killings, carried out against those seen by family or community members to have brought shame or dishonour on a family, often for transgressing gender norms or for sexual behaviour, including actual or assumed same-sex sexual activity. While women are generally the targets of this sort of punishment, these attacks can be directed at individuals of any sex

Reports from regional and non-governmental organizations point to a pattern of targeted violence.

The African Commission on Human and Peoples‟ Rights noted “an upsurge of intolerance against sexual minorities” in Cameroon, and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has repeatedly addressed related concerns in Latin America and the CaribbeanOSCE reported 44 bias-motivated murders of LGBT persons in 2009.

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