Historic resolution on human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity adopted at the Human Rights Council
27 June 2011
During its 17th session, the United Nations Human Rights Council passed a historic resolution on human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity on 14 June. Presented to the Human Rights Council by South Africa and Brazil, the draft resolution was cosponsored by 39 countries from all regions of the world. This is the first UN resolution on this subject and it was passed by 23 votes in favour, 19 votes against and 3 abstentions.
Homophobia and transphobia, which block effective responses to HIV, is institutionalized in many parts of the world. In 2010, more than 75 countries criminalized same-sex behaviour—and in some countries, it is punishable by death. Transgender people often face discrimination and violence with recent killings reported in Guatemala and Honduras among other countries.
Entitled Human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity (L.9/Rev.1), the resolution calls for four key actions, including a request to the High Commissioner for Human Rights to commission a worldwide study to document discriminatory laws, practices and acts of violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. The study will also outline how international human rights law can be used to end violence and related human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
This resolution is an important step for the international community. We must remove all barriers that prevent people from accessing HIV related services because of stigma and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity
Michel Sidibé, UNAIDS Executive Director
The council also decided to convene a panel discussion to take place during the 19th session of the Human Rights Council, informed by the findings of the study commissioned by High Commissioner. This panel will aim to hold constructive, informed and transparent dialogue on the issue of discriminatory laws and practices and acts of violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.
“This resolution is an important step for the international community. We must remove all barriers that prevent people from accessing HIV-related services because of stigma and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity,” emphasized UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé.
The recently adopted General Assembly Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS: Intensifying our efforts to Elimination HIV/AIDS, mentions for the first time men who have sex with men as a specific group at higher risk of HIV and states that “many national HIV prevention strategies inadequately focus on populations that epidemiological evidence shows are at higher risk.”
In 2009, 63 out of 67 countries reported a higher HIV prevalence among men who sex with men compared to the general population. Homophobia and transphobia block effective responses to HIV, driving already vulnerable populations underground and out of reach for HIV prevention and treatment services.
UNAIDS’ strategy 2011-2015: Getting to Zero calls for a revolution in HIV prevention to reduce by half new sexually transmitted HIV infections by 2015, including among young people, men who have sex with men and transmission in the context of sex work—a global goal echoed by the 2011 Political declaration on HIV/AIDS mentioned above.