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HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL DISCUSSES SEXUAL ORIENTATION AND GENDER IDENTITY-RELATED VIOLENCE, AND THE RIGHTS TO FREEDOM OF PEACEFUL ASSEMBLY AND OF ASSOCIATION

18 June 2018

The Human Rights Council this morning held a clustered interactive dialogue with Victor Madrigal-Borloz, Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and Clement Nyaletsossi Voule, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association. 

Mr. Madrigal-Borloz said his report sought to identify international best practices and give transparency to the activities covered by the mandate.  The first section of his report identified two major pillars of action, awareness raising and providing advice to States on effective measures to address relevant issues.  The second part of the report addressed heightened awareness, based on the premise that the pain, suffering and resilience in the lived realities of millions of people was sufficient evidence of how unpostponable adopting effective measures to eradicate violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity were.  He spoke about his mission to Argentina.

Argentina spoke as a concerned country.

Mr. Voule said his report to the Council focused on restricting trends concerning the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, which included instability during electoral times, the use of legislative frameworks to hamper the right to assembly and association, as well as criminalization, stigmatization and attacks on civil society.  The argument put forward for restricting the right of assembly had been public order and national stability.  However, civil society was a key factor for building a stable society.  He reiterated the need to cooperate with regional human rights protection mechanisms as well as with civil society.

In the ensuing discussion on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, delegates noted that people across the world were subjected to violence, discrimination and stigmatisation based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.  A number of speakers stressed that all people were entitled to equal rights and protection from violence and discrimination and that traditional cultural values must not be used to justify the denial of human rights.  Speakers welcomed encouraging developments in several countries which had changed their legislation to fight hatred and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, and inquired about the conditions necessary for changes in public opinion, which would allow, or even pressure, governments to act.
 
As for the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, delegations expressed concern over the shrinking space for civil society, including in electoral contexts; the excessive use of force to supress peaceful protests; and the intensifying restrictions and violence against human rights defenders, often under the pretext of security and stability.  Speakers stressed that the enjoyment of the rights to peaceful assembly and association was a pillar of democracy and underlined the critical role of civil society in promoting solidarity and good governance.  Marginalized and vulnerable populations, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons, continued to face criminal penalty for mere association with one another, thus the nexus between the interrelated rights of peaceful assembly, freedom of association, and gender identity should be explored in greater depth.

Speaking in the clustered interactive dialogue were Denmark on behalf of a group of Nordic and Baltic countries, European Union, Mexico on behalf of a group of countries, Togo on behalf of the African Group, Israel, Belgium, France, Canada, Montenegro, Germany, Czechia, State of Palestine, Iceland, Colombia, Iraq, Thailand, Australia, Switzerland, Netherlands, United States, Sudan, Morocco, Spain, Lichtenstein, Slovenia, Republic of Korea, Greece, Botswana, Tunisia, Albania, New Zealand, Venezuela, South Africa, Mexico, China, Afghanistan, Russia, Cuba, Georgia, Portugal, Ecuador, Ukraine, Malta, United Kingdom, Luxembourg, Ireland, Nigeria, Slovakia, Armenia, Honduras, Maldives and Austria.

The following non-governmental organizations took the floor: International Service for Human Rights, Swedish Federation of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights, Allied Rainbow Communities International, British Humanist Association, Asistencia Legal por los Derechos Humanos, Asociación Civil, Human Rights Law Centre, CIVICUS - World Alliance for Citizen Participation, International Lesbian and Gay Association, Human Rights House Foundation, Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development Forum-Asia, Action Canada for Population and Development, Swedish Association for Sex Education, Together Against the Death Penalty, Article 19 - The International Centre against Censorship and International Organization for the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (EAFORD).


At 2 p.m., the Council will start a clustered interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, and the Special Rapporteur on the elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members.


Documetation

The Council has before it the Report of the Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity (A/HRC/38/43)

The Council has before it an addendum to the Report of the Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity – mission to Argentina (A/HRC/38/43/Add.1).

The Council has before it an addendum to the Report of the Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity – comments by Argentina (A/HRC/38/43/Add.2).

The Council has before it the Report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association (A/HRC/38/34).

Presentation of Reports by the Independent Expert on Protection against Violence and Discrimination based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

VICTOR MADRIGAL-BORLOZ, Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, said he had listened with interest to the opinions of a broad sector of actors.  From those meetings he had prioritized issuing recommendations to eradicate the scourge of violence based on gender identity and sexual orientation.  His report sought to identify international best practices and give transparency to the activities covered by the mandate.

The first section of his report identified two major pillars of action, awareness raising and providing advice to States on effective measures to address relevant issues.  He noted that his predecessor had identified thematic pillars that would guide the mandate’s work in the coming years.  On the report on the situation in Argentina, he said it presented a catalogue of best practices covering legislation and State policy.  He called on Argentina to safeguard breakthroughs in the field, including increased protection to civil society organizations.

The second part of the Independent Expert’s report addressed heightened awareness, based on the premise that the pain, suffering and resilience in the lived realities of millions of people was sufficient evidence of how unpostponable adopting effective measures to eradicate violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity were.  People that the world was too scared to speak of and recognize some 40 years were now seen as the rights holders that they were.  However, over three million such people lived in the 72 countries in which laws or other measures criminalized on the basis of sexual orientation.

Measures identified as good or best practices included actions in the field of education, acknowledgement of responsibility, and the banning of intrusive and inhuman practices such as the so-called “conversion therapies”.  The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights played an essential role within the United Nations system to uphold the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and gender non-conforming persons.  Democracy rested on the furtherance of the will of the majority with respect of the rights of minorities.  He closed by acknowledging victims of violence and discrimination, thanking them for their cooperation with him.

Presentation of Report by the Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association

CLEMENT NYALETSOSSI VOULE, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, noted that the opportunity for the interactive dialogue came at an appropriate time.  Resolution 15/21 required, among others, for the Rapporteur to study restricting trends and challenges to exercising the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association and the report thus focused on these restricting trends.  Since its creation, the mandate holder had sent a total of 1,156 communications, some independently, some with other mandate holders.  Despite geographical differences, common trends to restricting the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association had been observed over the past seven years, such as instability during electoral times, use of legislative frameworks to hamper the right, criminalization and indiscriminate use of force, stigmatization and attacks on civil society, resurgence of nationalism, instability of economies, inequality and discrimination, armed conflict and other factors.  Analysis had demonstrated that the enjoyment of this right remained a challenge for many countries across the world.  The argument put forward for restricting the right of assembly had been public order and national stability.  However, civil society was a key factor for building a stable society. 

The following situations were brought to the attention of the Special Rapporteur.  In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a bill had been aiming to regulate functioning of non-governmental organizations, introducing restrictions on financing.  In Poland, a new bill on security could curb the participation of civil society at the COP24.  In other developments, in Nicaragua, efforts undertaken by the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights were welcomed and the Government was urged to fulfil recommendations.  Excessive use of force by Israel in the occupied Palestinian territories was condemned.  In Burundi, the conviction of the human rights defender Germain Rukuki to 32 years of prison was condemned.  In India, the disproportionate use of force against demonstrators in the state of Tamil Nadu was condemned.  In closing, the Special Rapporteur reiterated the need to cooperate with regional human rights protection mechanisms as well as with civil society.   For the past seven years, the mandate holder had worked on the drafting of standards, but now more needed to be done on implementation.

Statement by the Concerned Country

Argentina, speaking as the concerned country, reiterated Argentina’s commitment to eradicating all forms of discrimination, including on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity, in line with the Constitution and relevant international instruments.  Argentina was honoured to be the first country that had welcomed the Independent Expert and reiterated that all the legal provisions in the country protected the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons.  The Protocol on the detention of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons that the Independent Expert had referred to in his report, was in place to protect their integrity and gender identity.  Argentina had established a federal roundtable on public policy on sexual diversity and was committed to guaranteeing full rights to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons and working tirelessly so that all inhabitants of the country enjoyed the rights guaranteed under the law.

Interactive Dialogue

Denmark, speaking on behalf of a group Nordic and Baltic countries, said violence and discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation existed across the entire world.  Everyone had the right to live free from violence and discrimination, in all countries and regions.  The group of countries asked how the United Nations could support States in efforts to protect people from violence based on gender identity and sexual orientation.  European Union said people across the world continued to be subjected to discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and asked for best practices in preventing violence.  The European Union also asked the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of assembly and of association how work with civil society could be strengthened.  Mexico, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, said prejudice was institutionalized in many States and reiterated the commitment of the group of countries to combat violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity.  Togo, speaking on behalf of the African Group, said it was crucial that the environment in which civil society operated was open.  Emphasis must be placed on the peaceful nature of public assembly.  Civil society must be an active participant in the protection of human rights and the rule of law.

Israel reiterated its strong support for the mandate of the Independent Expert which was among the most necessary ones; it was not about creating new rights but ensuring that everyone enjoyed the existing rights.  Israel asked the Special Rapporteur on peaceful assembly and association whether there was any possible way to consider Molotov cocktails, explosive devices and airborne firebombs as legitimate means of peaceful demonstration?  Belgium regretted that half of the global lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex population lived in countries which criminalized them and asked how best practices in combatting violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity would be made available to other countries.  Belgium was concerned about the shrinkage of space for civil society and appealed to all States, particularly those in electoral contexts, to allow space for civil society to fully play their part.  France was troubled by the use of the death penalty on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity and expressed its continued support for the goal of universal decriminalization of homosexuality.  France shared the concern about the increasingly shrinking space for civil society and the excessive use of force to supress peaceful protests. 

Canada said it would host a conference on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex rights and inclusive development that would coordinate foreign and development assistance policy.  Could the Independent Expert share his views on how States could champion the Yogakarta Principles plus 10 in support of ending violence and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons.  Montenegro noted that the status of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons was still too influenced by a dominant social perception that their existence represented a violation of morality, and said that it would soon adopt a new strategy for improving their quality of life and the implementation of the law on same-sex partnership.  Germany took positive note of encouraging developments in several countries which had changed their legislation to fight hatred and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, and asked the Independent Expert about the conditions necessary for changes in public opinion, which would allow, or even pressure, governments to act.

Czechia asked Mr. Madrigal-Borloz how he planned to support the exchange of best practices and information on the inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and gender non-conforming persons.  Czechia then asked Mr. Voule how freedom of assembly and of association could be protected in the context of elections.  State of Palestine said the rights to freedom of assembly and of association were outlined in a number of international human rights texts and stressed that occupying powers must uphold those rights.  In Gaza, Israeli forces continued to use live ammunition against unarmed protestors.  How could Palestinians be protected.  Iceland said it had become a member of the Equal Rights Coalition and remained committed to becoming a global leader in the field of self-determination based on gender awareness.  Turning to violence based on gender orientation and sexual identity in several countries, Iceland asked if the Independent Expert was able to engage with the authorities of such countries.

Colombia said it was strengthening the link between sexual orientation and human dignity.  The Government prioritized implementing comprehensive legislation on the matter.  Colombia called for efforts to consolidate and safeguard the gains made for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and gender non-conforming persons.  Iraq supported the rights to peaceful assembly and association as these were pillars of democracy.  The exercise of such rights was an indicator of the degree of democracy in every country.  Iraq called for the lifting of all constraints on these rights, including on the Internet.  Thailand stressed that effective laws, policies and measures were needed to prevent violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity.  Thailand noted the need for a functioning mechanism to investigate and provide remedies for sex- or gender- based discrimination and asked for views on how to raise awareness of such efforts.

Australia stressed that all people were entitled to equal rights and protection from violence and discrimination and that traditional cultural values must not be used to justify the denial of human rights.  The criminalization of consensual same-sex relationships was unacceptable as it promoted negative stereotypes and discrimination.  Switzerland said that a number of countries ignored the scourge of hate crimes based on sexual orientation and gender identity and asked how a dialogue could be established with governments that did not recognize this as a problem.  On peaceful assembly, Switzerland asked the Special Rapporteur about a recommended follow up to obstacles in the digital space identified in his report.  Netherlands stressed every person’s entitlement to human rights and that violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity should never be tolerated, and asked whether the Independent Expert would incorporate the Yogakarta plus 10 principles in his work.  The Netherlands was very concerned about intensifying restrictions and violence against civil society organizations and human rights defenders, often under the pretext of security and stability. 

United States drew attention to collaborative linkages between the two mandate holders as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons and other marginalized and vulnerable populations continued to face criminal penalty for mere association with one another.  The nexus between the interrelated rights of peaceful assembly, freedom of association, and gender identity should be explored in greater depth.  Sudan said that Sudan fully respected the freedom of peaceful assembly and of association and was a pioneer of trade unions in the region.  Since 2016, Sudan had been implementing the national dialogue outcomes which included over 900 recommendations, the most important of which was the formation of the current National Unity Government.  Morocco stressed the critical role of civil society in promoting solidarity and good governance, and said it had invested in a process of modern reforms, which had seen the birth of a National Initiative for Human Development.

Spain said that violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity existed across the world.  Spain had established an observatory to assist victims of hate crimes as a means to reduce under-reporting.  Efforts were also in place to promote inclusiveness in the workplace.  Lichtenstein stressed that societies could only thrive when rights applied to all persons, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity.  States must work to mitigate gender- and sexual-based violence.  Lichtenstein asked how greater dialogue could be fostered.  Slovenia said human rights defenders played an important role in educating populations on root causes of homophobia.  Turning to issues of hate speech, Slovenia asked how issues of hate speech could be tackled in countries with deeply rooted discriminatory beliefs.

Republic of Korea stressed that freedom of association built the democratic institutions crucial to protecting human rights.  The Special Rapporteur was asked what role States could play to protect freedom of expression in a changing technological environment.  Greece said it was actively engaged in a legal process to strengthen gender and sexual related protections.  The Government had recently legalized foster care for same-sex couples.  Greece stressed that homophobia must be a thing of the past.  Botswana called for the recognition that public assemblies required proper management to ensure the protection of all relevant parties.  Botswana called for extensive dialogue on best practices to assist States in the development of adequate legislation on the matter.

Tunisia said that the right to freedom of association was constitutionally guaranteed in Tunisia, in recognition of the role of civil society in supporting peace and social fabric, which was critical, particularly in a complex security context.  Tunisia stressed the importance of sharing best practices in combatting extremism.  Albania shared concern about violence and even death that people around the world continued to suffer because of their different sexual orientation and gender identity, and asked the Independent Expert about his plans to foster dialogue with all stakeholders, especially States.  Albania also shared concern over the targeting of human rights defenders and other actors from civil society and asked the Special Rapporteur how he planned to respond to challenges highlighted in the report.

Comments by the Independent Expert on Protection against Violence and Discrimination based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

VICTOR MADRIGAL-BORLOZ, Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, thanked all the delegations for their expressions of support for the goal and content of the mandate and said that his role was to fulfil it in line with the resolution that had set it up.  The Independent Expert said he had spoken to many stakeholders who had expressed the ideas of creating bridges of communication and ensuring that all doors remained opened to those who wished to address the mandate.  Mr. Madrigal-Borloz stressed the importance of country visits for the implementation of the mandate, and the critical role of States to adequately address communications, and underlined the benefits of cooperation for the implementation of the mandate provided for by this august Council. 

Several delegations had mentioned the issue of information and data and the Independent Expert had recognized their concerns in terms of how best practices could be shared, especially in the context of the criminalization of individuals and in terms of linking up data with policy making, including on the Sustainable Development Goals.  Preconception and stigma permeated all structures and those had to be checked in data collection in order to avoid their replication.  The Independent Expert recognized the importance of intersectionality that underlined the mandate and said that he was already exploring the linkages and possibilities of cooperation.  On the questions raised on the application of the Yogakarta plus 10 principles in the implementation of the mandate, the Independent Expert said he would certainly pay due attention to bringing them to light.  As the mandate moved on, the Independent Expert said he would explore various aspects of non-repetition and recognition of responsibilities, and also of ending negation and bringing visibility to affected populations, which had an enormous impact.

Comments by the Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association

CLEMENT NYALETSOSSI VOULE, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, thanked all delegations for recognizing the existing challenges in exercising the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association as well as for their understanding of the vital role that civil society had to play.  For civil society to become stronger, it had to be able to receive funds, which was not possible in some countries, therefore negatively impacting their ability to promote human rights.  Moreover, national laws had to create necessary prerequisites for the functioning of civil society and State authorities had a responsibility to guarantee their work.  International law was very clear on the right to peaceful assembly.  However, legislation was often used to restrict the work of civil society as cited in the report.  The Special Rapporteur expressed expectation that all information on all States would be collected so that information on best practices could be exchanged.  He added that cooperation with States in areas of legislative reform was a priority for the mandate, so technical assistance could be provided to States.  Gratitude was expressed to Tunisia for extending an invitation for a country visit.  It was reiterated that civil society had a key role to play in development but also in the promotion of democracy, making the shrinking of the place of civil society deplorable.  Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons had a right to peaceful assembly so criminalization and discrimination of that group of people had to be avoided.  The responsibility of a State was to ensure that protests were peaceful, so if a handful of protesters used weapons, it did not made protests illegal or violent.  Freedom of association in digital areas would be a topic for a future report.  The Rapporteur underscored the need for a Commission of Inquiry to conduct fieldwork in Palestine.  It was a State’s responsibility to encourage national debate on the necessity of the work of human rights defenders.

Interactive Dialogue

New Zealand welcomed the recommendations of the Independent Expert and called for urgent action by all States to prevent violence and discrimination.  Last year the New Zealand Parliament had formally apologised to a man convicted under old laws that criminalized homosexuality, recognizing the hurt and stigma it had brought to people.  Venezuela said its Constitution prohibited any discrimination, thus ensuring the enjoyment of all human rights.  Success was wished to the Special Rapporteur in his work, however, disagreement was voiced over paragraphs of the report that had mentioned the situation in Venezuela, as the assessment had been incorrect.  South Africa urged States to make advancements in the protection of rights to peaceful assembly and of association, noting that the Government of South Africa had entrenched such rights in its constitution, precisely because of its past.  Discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity defied any logic.  Mexico said that the Constitution of Mexico banned any discrimination and a national survey on discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons had been carried out in order to develop informative public policies.  There was a possibility to share this good practice.

China was against violence and discrimination of any kinds, including on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity, and also advocated that the international community should respect all countries social systems and cultures and avoid imposing values on others.  The right to freedom of association and assembly was constitutionally guaranteed, while all citizens in exercising this right must abide by the law and not violate the rights and freedoms of others.  Afghanistan shared the concerns of the Special Rapporteur that the acceptance of attitudes of cultural or national superiority adopted by some political actors had the potential to trigger a process of gradual legitimization of racism and xenophobia, and asked about the appropriate human rights approach to maintaining the balance between the legitimate national security concerns and the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.  Russia believed that it was States which took measures to facilitate peaceful meetings and assemblies and that realizing the right to association and assembly should not be aimed at undermining the security of the State.  Defending the right to freedom of association could not be used to justify the existence of a Nazi organization, stressed Russia.

Cuba noted that the Special Rapporteur had used as a basis for his report the communications sent by his predecessor, which however did not contain assessments of previous actions.  Cuba urged the Special Rapporteur to keep within the limits of his mandate, with objectivity and impartiality.  Georgia stressed that States could and should implement measures aimed to eliminate violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, noting that Georgia itself was one of the countries which had directly prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.  Portugal said that shocking human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity persisted all over the world.  They were deeply entrenched in cultural norms and beliefs and often legitimized or reinforced by States through punitive and discriminatory laws and regulations.  On peaceful assembly, Portugal reiterated its deep concern about the shrinking of civic space across all regions and asked the Special Rapporteur on his priorities in terms of cooperation with other Special Procedures with a view to joining efforts to counter those trends.

Ecuador reiterated the fundamental importance of the full implementation of the Sustainable Development Goal number 16 to promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development.  Concerning the right to peaceful assembly, Ecuador promoted open dialogue with all sectors of society.  Ukraine said that the right to freedom of peaceful assembly had been curtailed in Crimea since the peninsula’s occupation in 2014.  Public gatherings and street protests had significantly shrunk and the Special Rapporteur was invited to visit Ukraine, including Crimea and certain areas of Donetsk and Luhansk.  The Independent Expert was also extended an invitation.  Malta noted that people with different sexual orientation or gender identity were often easy targets for hate crimes and violence.  The Independent Expert was asked to elaborate on potential challenges that States might face when developing data-collection procedures to assess different aspects of violence and discrimination.  

United Kingdom was deeply concerned by the ongoing persecution of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons in Chechnya.  The ability to assemble or form associations was central to human rights and too often legislation was used to prevent peaceful assembly.  Luxembourg noted that millions of people across the world had been victims due to different sexual orientation.  It called on all members of the United Nations to cooperate in good faith and implement recommendations.  Ireland asked the Independent Expert how he planned to work on the issues set out in the report over the coming year.  The Special Rapporteur was asked how he intended to encourage States to support the mandate and facilitate requests for country visits.

Nigeria said the rights to freedom of assembly and of association were adequately guaranteed by its Constitution.  Nigerians were very much aware of the availability of the needed space for the exercise of their rights to peaceful assembly and association.  Civil society actors were urged to conduct their business with respect to the rule of law.  Slovakia shared the view that global challenges, including security threats and political instability, may restrict basic human rights, including peaceful association.  National security policies were being used by some countries to restrict civil society.  Armenia brought to attention this year’s peaceful protests in the country that had led to a peaceful, constitutional political transition.  Civil society members had been targeted across the world and the Special Rapporteur must continue paying attention to such cases.

Honduras reaffirmed its commitment to combatting all forms of gender- and sexual-based acts of violence.  Honduras agreed that criminalizing consensual same-sex relations ran counter to international human rights obligations.   Maldives said it was still in search of a balance between democratic rights and responsibilities.  There was a responsibility to provide safe environments that guaranteed the rights to freedom of assembly and of association.  These rights went hand in hand with the opportunity to live peaceful lives in stable societies.  Austria said over 70 countries continued to criminalize consensual same-sex relations, with some still using the death penalty.  The struggle for gender and sexual equality continued.  Austria was implementing repeals to limits on marriage for same-sex couples.  Austria asked how States could work with media outlets to address such issues.

International Service for Human Rights, in a joint statement, said that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender organizations had been particularly affected by violations.  The Independent Expert was asked to follow up on his recommendations and States were called to develop policies punishing hate speech and violence.  Swedish Federation of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights, in a joint statement on behalf of 23 trans activists from 19 countries, said that the trans community experienced injustice and cruelty spread through the media, calling for excluding trans and gender diverse individuals from public spaces.  Human rights violations extended to the right to privacy and isolated the trans community from access to information.  Allied Rainbow Communities International commended in particular the section of the report that acknowledged the legacy of colonial laws, including those exported from the United Kingdom to Commonwealth countries.  Other colonial powers were called to follow that example and remove old colonial laws as well as to uphold the Yogyakarta Principles plus 10.

British Humanist Association said that gay conversion therapy was cruel and inhumane, often leading to psychological, emotional and spiritual damage.  Despite that, only a few States actually banned conversion therapy, according to the report, and States were urged to act upon this.  Human Rights Law Centre said that the report highlighted the need to remove laws that entrenched discrimination and stigma.  Although Australia had marriage equality, more work needed to be done to protect people from public harassment and hate crime.  CIVICUS- World Alliance for Citizen Participation said that the report demonstrated the situation in which civil society was struggling across the globe, which was confirmed by CIVICUS research that had shown how governments had been using a range of mechanisms to stifle civil rights.  States were reminded that they had to treat civil society as an ally, not an enemy.

International Lesbian and Gay Association, in a joint statement, agreed with many concerns regarding data collection identified by the Independent Expert.  Hate speech remained a major concern, including in the English-speaking Caribbean.  In Latin America people were murdered for expressing their sexual orientation and gender identity.  Human Rights House Foundation said States continued to promote values inconsistent with the rule of law and democratic principles.  Developments in Hungary that threatened legal actions against individuals assisting migrants were a major concern.  In Belarus participation in public spaces was limited.  Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights said the number of dead and injured in Palestine during public gatherings continued to rise.  Israel historically used its judicial system to whitewash crimes.  The Centre urged the Special Rapporteur to conduct his own investigation regarding the killings.

Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development emphasised the Special Rapporteur’s call to recognize the important role of civil society in shaping governance and inclusiveness.  In the Maldives, civil society groups still had to request official approval for gatherings, undermining the democratic environment needed for fair elections.  Action Canada for Population and Development said intersectionality offered a radical critique of patriarchy, capitalism, white supremacy and other forms of discrimination.  The group called on the Independent Expert to use an intersectional approach to understand human rights violations.  Swedish Association for Sex Education, in a joint statement, expressed concern that the most basic and universally agreed human rights were sometimes the most difficult to uphold.  Legal reforms were just one of a plethora of actions that could be taken to eradicate violence and discrimination. 

Together Against the Death Penalty drew the attention of the Council to continuing severe freedom restrictions in Iran.  The Government continued to block Facebook and other social media, journalists had been detained and over 400 Kurds were being held under fabricated charges.  Article 19-International Centre Against Censorship said that discriminatory laws had created hostile environments which had only exacerbated violence.  Laws in Belarus prohibited speaking in favour of the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons.  International Organization for the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (EAFORD) noted the tendency of the Israeli occupying forces to forcibly stifle peaceful protests.  This was particularly evident in the past few months during the protests in Gaza, which had resulted in numerous deaths.

Concluding Remarks

VICTOR MADRIGAL-BORLOZ, Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, said he would be studying the impact of several victim assistance measures.  His priority was to maintain all doors open to dialogue.  The Independent Expert would continue working on the thematic underpinnings laid out by his predecessor and improve data and information analysis.  Cross-cutting issues, including health, were a clear indication of the intersectionality of the mandate.  He believed in a shared responsibility in the protection of the international human rights system. 

CLEMENT NYALETSOSSI VOULE, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, reiterated that every person had a right to peaceful assembly and association.  Speaking on Venezuela, he stated that communication had been sent to the authorities so any further information and clarification would be welcomed.  If delegates had further comments, the Special Rapporteur was willing to continue bilateral talks and meet with them.  The priority of the mandate was collaboration with other mandate holders and ensuring regional systems for the protection of human rights.  Mr. Voule thanked Ukraine for its invitation and he expressed willingness to visit Ireland.  He also expressed gratitude to CIVICUS as well as other non-governmental organizations for their contributions.


For use of the information media; not an official record

HRC18/076E