Published: 1 Dec 2017 | By Victoria Kerr
The first report of the Independent Expert on SOGI
Setting the scene: a panorama and key concerns
In April 2017, the first report of the United Nations Independent Expert (IE) on protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity (‘SOGI discrimination’), Vitit Muntarbhorn, was presented to the UN Human Rights Council. The theme of the report is “diversity in humanity, humanity in diversity” and it sets the scene for the IE’s future monitoring and advocacy.
Global SOGI discrimination is not homogenous and “traverses the home, educational system, community relations, national scenarios and the international setting”.
The report provides a panorama of the situation regarding SOGI discrimination. It praises constructive practices and key developments (for example: same-sex marriage permitted in Canada and the US; courts in Botswana and Kenya declaring the refusal to register LGBT associations to be unconstitutional; and the annulment by Germany of Nazi-era homosexuality convictions). The IE notes that physical and psychological violence against LGBTI persons remains widespread and youth, women and refugees are at particular risk. Human rights defenders are also often persecuted for upholding LGBTI rights. The IE states that there is still a lack of awareness of the issue, and SOGI discrimination is linked to intersectional discrimination relating to race, ethnic origin, age, gender or membership of a minority ethnic or indigenous community. Despite a comprehensive international legal framework, challenges in ensuring protection of LGBTI rights include: criminalisation; discriminatory attitudes; harassment by police; stigma; lack of protective legislation; absence of complaints mechanisms; and lack of trust in law enforcement officials, all of which result in impunity for perpetrators and deny victims access to effective remedies. The IE reiterates the importance of dialogue, inter-agency cooperation and cooperation with civil society and the business sector in order to identify solutions to address these challenges.