Geneva/Washington D.C./Banjul - From 26 to 28 March 2018, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights hosted an interregional meeting concerning human rights through the lens of sexual orientation, gender identity and sex characteristics at its headquarters in Washington D.C. Members of the Inter-American Commission and its Special Rapporteurships* were joined by five members of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and nine United Nations human rights experts** for a three-day dialogue on standards, best practices, challenges, and the identification of possible areas of collaboration between the systems.
The meeting had three overarching objectives: to share best practices and challenges, to identify fields of collaboration, and to reaffirm the commitment of United Nations human rights experts and the inter-American and African regional human rights systems to the eradication of violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
All experts present agreed that working to ensure that all persons enjoy a life free from such violence and discrimination must remain a priority.
United Nations experts underlined their support for the work carried out in this field by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and stressed the contribution of these regional bodies to the protection of individuals, groups, communities and peoples historically subjected to discrimination, among them gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans and intersex persons, and the promotion of their rights.
The regional Commissions also welcomed the exchange with members from United Nations treaty bodies and special procedures mandate holders, from long-standing bodies such as the Human Rights Committee to the recently created mandate of the Independent Expert on violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and recognised that the principle of universality is best implemented when including the universal perspective into regional work.
A key element of the dialogue was the concept of intersectionality, that brings to light the substantially distinct life experience of each and every lesbian, gay, trans, bisexual and intersex person, and that may include linkages with areas such as the rights of the child, the rights of women, economic, social, cultural and environmental rights including the right to health and combatting HIV, sexual and reproductive rights, human rights defenders, extrajudicial and summary executions, arbitrary detention, migrants, people with disabilities, afro-descendants, indigenous people, freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly and the prevention of torture.
In further recognition of this reality, UN experts and members of the Commissions also held side-meetings to focus on their respective portfolios and identify possibilities for bilateral cooperation.
The dialogue underscored the duty of all branches of Government within States to promote and protect the human rights of LGBTI persons, and the role of National Human Rights Institutions in this connection.
It also provided due recognition to the pivotal role historically fulfilled by civil society in the work of protection and promotion, and also in inspiring the very creation of approaches and mechanisms. The experts agreed that it is thanks to the principled and visionary work of civil society that their work in this area exists in its current form. The experts also reaffirmed the importance of creating and nurturing spaces so that the voice of civil society can continue to be heard in the regional and universal human rights systems.
The experts closed the meeting with a reflection on the many gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans and intersex lives shattered and lost as a result of violence based on sexual orientation, gender identity and sex characteristics: “No more!” said Margarette Macaulay, the President of the IACHR.
The substance of the discussions and conclusions will be published in a report.
The dialogue took place with the support of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the United Nations Development Programme and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS. All three agencies reaffirmed that protecting human rights for all, leaving no one behind and ending violence, criminalization, discrimination and other human rights violations against lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex persons, are priorities for the entire United Nations system.
* IACHR Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression and IACHR Special Rapporteur on Economic, Social, Cultural and Environmental Rights.
** United Nations Experts that participated included members of the UN Human Rights Committee, UN Committee against Torture, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, the UN Working Group on the issue of Discrimination against Women in Law and in Practice and mandate holders on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, Human Rights Defenders, the Right to Health and Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.
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