First United Nations Expert on Sexual Orientation Presents Inaugural Human Rights Report to Third Committee, as Others Tackle Justice, Environment Concerns

Human Rights – Sexual Orientation
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First United Nations Expert on Sexual Orientation Presents Inaugural Human Rights Report to Third Committee, as Others Tackle Justice, Environment Concerns
GA/SHC/4243 25 October 2018
General Assembly Third Committee
Seventy-third Session, 33rd & 34th Meetings (AM & PM)

Right Not to Be Arbitrarily Deprived of Life Universally Recognized, ‘Applies at All Times’, Says Special Rapporteur
Thousands of trans and gender-diverse persons are subjected to levels of violence that “offend the human conscience”, the first United Nations expert on the topic told the Third Committee today, as delegates engaged with mandate holders on the promotion and protection of human rights.

In his inaugural presentation, Victor Madrigal-Borloz, Independent Expert on the protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, who took up his mandate 1 January, said thousands of trans and gender-diverse persons have been killed in recent years. In some countries, the life expectancy of a trans woman is only 35 years, he said, meaning that at age 17, she is middle-aged, and at 23, nearing the end of her life.

Describing this as “the tip of a horrifying iceberg”, he said a lack of reporting and data collection, itself stemming from transphobia, has meant an enormous amount of information is unknown about these communities. Bureaucratic approaches that lack “rhyme or reason” only exacerbate the risk of violence and discrimination, notably when the name, sex or gender details in official documents do not match a person’s appearance.

Moreover, when Governments do recognize the gender identity of trans persons, they often impose arbitrary and abusive requirements, he said: medical certification, surgery, treatment, sterilization or divorce among them. States’ non-recognition of trans and gender-diverse persons has created a “legal vacuum”, violating the right to equal recognition before the law, and in turn, the rights to health, education and housing.

And yet, Governments have the power to end such ordeals, he said, urging them to eliminate the conception of gender as pathology. They should instead design and conduct public education campaigns — including on anti-bullying and sexual education — and formulate education policies addressing harmful social and cultural bias, misconceptions and prejudice. “These measures cannot be postponed”, he asserted.

In the ensuing dialogue, delegates expressed concern about discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people, with Albania’s representative voicing regret that more than 70 countries still criminalize sexual orientation. Colombia’ delegate advocated measures to fight such abuse, while Costa Rica’s delegate pointed to measures adopted this year that allow people to change their names through a simple administrative procedure…