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Sexual orientation and gender identity: UN expert hails historic legal opinion issued in Americas

GENEVA (12 January 2018) - An independent expert appointed by the United Nations hailed a landmark opinion by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights that recognises the right to gender identity and protection of family ties between same-sex couples.

Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, said Advisory Opinion OC-24 issued by the Court on 9 January 2018 was a significant step toward upholding the dignity and human rights of persons with diverse sexual orientation and gender identity.

Pathologizing persons with diverse gender identities, including trans women and men, is one of the root causes behind the grave human rights violations against them. Madrigal-Borloz underlined that the Court concluded that requiring medical or psychological certifications or other unreasonable requirements for gender recognition was not in line with the American Convention.

“I am very pleased with the Court’s reasoning, which is permeated in equal measure by legal rigour and human understanding. Advisory Opinion OC-24 is a veritable blueprint for States to fulfil their obligation to provide quick, transparent and accessible legal gender recognition without abusive conditions, respectful of free/informed choice and bodily autonomy, as was also exhorted last May by a group of United Nations and international human rights experts,” he said.

The Court also recognized that the American Convention protects family ties between same-sex persons and that the protection extends to ensuring that same-sex couples have access, without exception, to all forms of legal recognition of relationships and families that are available to heterosexual couples.

“In my view, the protections described by the Court in this Advisory Opinion will have an extremely positive impact in addressing stigma, promoting socio-cultural inclusion and furthering legal recognition of gender identity, all of which have been identified by my mandate as fundamental to address the root causes of violence and discrimination,” concluded the Independent Expert.

ENDS

Mr. Victor Madrigal-Borloz (Costa Rica) assumed the role of UN Independent Expert on Protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity for a three years period starting on 1 January 2018. He serves as the Secretary-General of the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT), a global network of over 150 rehabilitation centres with the vision of full enjoyment of the right to rehabilitation for all victims of torture and ill treatment. A member of the UN Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture from 2013 to 2016, Mr Madrigal-Borloz was Rapporteur on Reprisals and oversaw a draft policy on the torture and ill-treatment of LGBTI persons. Prior to this he led technical work on numerous cases, reports and testimonies as Head of Litigation and Head of the Registry at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and has also worked at the Danish Institute for Human Rights (Copenhagen, Denmark) and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (San José, Costa Rica).

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.
For inquiries and media requests, please contact Ms. Catherine de Preux De Baets (+41 22 917 93 27 /cdepreuxdebaets@ohchr.org).

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Jeremy Laurence – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9826 / 
jlaurence@ohchr.org

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