Summary: The theme of the present report is “Embrace diversity and energize humanity”. Key developments in 2017 are noted, particularly in regard to the progression of human rights law and practice at the international and national levels; intersectionality between sexual orientation and gender identity and other issues concerning violence and discrimination; and dialogue and cooperation between the Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and stakeholders.
Two of the various underpinnings introduced in the Independent Expert’s first report (A/HRC/35/36) are singled out for particular attention to help prevent and overcome violence and discrimination: namely, decriminalization of consensual same-sex relations and gender identity and expression, and effective anti-discrimination measures. The report includes an overview of country situations, as highlighted by various actors through submissions sent to the Independent Expert. The report calls for reform of the laws, policies and practices which criminalize consensual same-sex relations, as well as those relating to gender identity and its expression. Pending repeal of discriminatory laws, the preferred policy is to desist from applying such negative laws and policies. Effective anti-discrimination measures are also critically needed; they vary from laws to policies and other action in a comprehensive and human rights-responsive setting.
The theme of the present report is “Embrace diversity and energize humanity”. It has been submitted by Vitit Muntarbhorn, who in 2016 was appointed as the Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, pursuant to Human Rights Council resolution 32/2. He wishes to warmly thank Governments, international organizations, non-governmental organizations, communities, individuals and other stakeholders for their kind support. In accordance with the request of the Council in its resolution 32/2, paragraph 4, the first report of the Independent Expert was submitted to the Council in April 2017 (A/HRC/35/36). The present report is submitted in line with paragraph 4 of the same resolution, in which the Council requested the Independent Expert to present a report to the General Assembly at its seventy-second session. The Independent Expert will elaborate upon the six underpinnings mentioned in his first report, adjusted as follows: decriminalization of consensual same-sex relations and of gender identity and expression; effective anti-discrimination measures; legal recognition of gender identity; destigmatization linked with depathologization; sociocultural inclusion; and education with empathy. The present report (part one) will address the first two underpinnings, decriminalization and anti-discrimination. Parts two and three, due in 2018, will deal with the other underpinnings consecutively.
It should be recalled that everyone has some form of sexual orientation and gender identity. Sexual orientation denotes a person’s physical, romantic and/or emotional attraction towards others, while gender identity concerns a person’s self- perceived identity, which may be different from the sex assigned at birth, as well as the expression of gender identity. The two notions should not be conflated. However, it is unconscionable that persons with an actual or perceived sexual orientation and/or gender identity different from a particular social norm are targeted for violence and discrimination in many parts of the world. Killings, rape, mutilation, torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment as well as arbitrary detention, abduction, harassment, physical and mental assaults such as lashings and forced surgical interventions, bullying from a young age, pressures leading to suicide, and discriminatory action, aggravated by incitement to hatred, in relation to sexual orientation and gender identity are pervasive in numerous settings.
The establishment of the mandate to promote action against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is anchored in international human rights law, and it is a momentous commitment to multilateralism. It is an invitation to be forward looking and an incentive to move forward together. The present report is thus a clarion call to embrace diversity, complemented by the belief that respect for human rights energizes human society, yielding a positive dividend in terms of peace, sustainable development and societal inclusiveness. It also contributes to economic benefits, while reinforcing a sense of common humanity transcending borders and cultures.