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States must push back against harmful anti-gender narratives – UN expert

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GENEVA (25 June 2021) – Individuals departing from gender norms and societal expectations are under attack in many parts of the world, stripped of their rights to self-determination, autonomy, bodily and mental integrity, a UN expert told the Human Rights Council today.

“At a time when the very concept of gender is being challenged, and some countries are even stepping up persecution of trans and gender diverse people and others, it is more important than ever that States create a safe environment for those who do not conform to society’s gender norms,” said Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

He made the comments in a report to the Council analysing the incorporation of gender in international human rights law.

“Gender theory is a powerful tool to address the oppression of female or non-normative identities,” the report says. “Feminist struggle and the fight to live free from violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity are deeply intertwined, and they reinforce each other.”

By grounding his report in international human rights law, Madrigal-Borloz hopes that his report will dispute certain current popular arguments that he said “are plagued with misconceptions, stigma and prejudice.” The report was based on submissions by more than 500 individuals and groups with a wide variety of opinions.

For a tiny percentage of the world’s population, he said, gender norms result in privilege, but “for most of humankind – particularly women and people whose gender identity and/or expression do not fit squarely within the male/female binary – they will lead to discrimination and violence.”

Madrigal-Borloz called on States to adopt a gender-based analysis to address the root causes of violence and discrimination against persons because of their gender, gender identity and/or gender expression and sexual orientation. He also called for a world accepting gender diversity based on self-determination.

“States must do more to provide legal recognition of gender identity consistent with the rights to freedom from discrimination, equal protection of the law, privacy, identity and freedom of expression,” he said. “This means, among other things, that the administrative process must be simple, based on the applicant’s choice, and must not require intrusive or abusive measures such as surgery or hormone treatment. The gender identity of minors must also be respected under the law.”

Governments have a fundamental duty to prevent, prosecute and punish violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression, the report says, “and to recognise every human being’s freedom to determine the confines of their existence, including gender identity and expression.”

In many countries of the world, June has been designated the month of pride, “meant to signify the ability of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and gender diverse persons to occupy public space in full freedom and equality, and the recognition of the value of their contribution to the social fabric,” he said.

To make these a reality, “States must uphold rights related to gender and sexuality as universal and inalienable, and ensure recognition of the right to bodily and mental integrity, autonomy and self-determination of everyone,” said Madrigal-Borloz.

Mr. Victor Madrigal-Borloz will hold a hybrid press conference Friday, 25 June at 13:30 in Room XIV, Palais des Nations.

ENDS

Mr. Víctor 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-year period starting on 1 January 2018. Victor Madrigal-Borloz is a senior visiting researcher at the Harvard Law School’s Human Rights Program. He served as the Secretary-General of the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT. A member of the UN Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture, 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 Independent Experts 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 more information and media requests please contact Catherine de Preux De Baets (cdepreuxdebaets@ohchr.org), Taro Tanaka (ttanaka@ohchr.org) or write to ie-sogi@ohchr.org

For media inquiries regarding other UN independent experts, please contact Renato de Souza (+41 22 928 9855 / rrosariodesouza@ohchr.org).

Follow news related to the UN's independent human rights experts on Twitter: @UN_SPExperts.

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