Friday, April 4, 2014

UN Development Commission: Don’t Trade Away LGBT Rights


High-Level Development Debate on Friday Chance to Highlight LGBT Rights Violations

(April 3, 2014 – New York) Heads of state and top government officials from all over the world meeting Friday at the United Nations have a responsibility to acknowledge that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity is a barrier to development, said the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) today.

“It’s not rocket science: when you are criminalized, discriminated against, or bullied, chances are you have a harder time at school, at work, or when you are trying to access healthcare,” said Jessica Stern, Executive Director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC). “That’s a development issue. That’s what we are talking about.”

The high-level meeting at the United Nations in New York tomorrow is meant to kick-off a week long discussion on development objectives at the Commission on Population and Development (CPD). The CPD is a 47-seat UN body that meets annually to discuss issues pertaining to health, population growth, as well as economic and human development.

This year, the CPD discussions are happening in the context of ongoing United Nations negotiations for a sustainable development framework, known as the Post-2015 process. The main objective for the Post-2015 process is for UN Member States to agree upon development goals, along with explicit targets and indicators to monitor compliance. IGLHRC recently joined dozens of other organizations in demanding attention to the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals (LGBT) and communities in the Post-2015 process.

“Sustainable development simply cannot happen without addressing the systemic discrimination and violence perpetrated worldwide against LGBT communities,” said Stern. “We demand explicit attention to this reality in any new development framework.”

The CPD, which will meet all of next week, comes only two weeks after the closing of the UN Commission on the Status of Women, where this year’s debate also focused on development. At that commission, reference to non-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity was left outof the final document at the last minute, as a trade-off to maintain a status quo agreement on the appropriate level of international oversight into national affairs.

“It is unacceptable that our rights are constantly used as a political bargaining chip,” said Stern. “We know governments can do better, and we demand they step up during the Commission on Population and Development, starting with tomorrow’s high-level debate.”

Background Information

At the 58th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), the LBT Caucus—a group of LBT activists from around the world—wrote a statement demanding the inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) in the CSW process. The LBT statement received overwhelming support and was signed by over 70 organizations and more than 20 individuals. Because LGBT people and issues related to SOGI are often invisibilized in discussions of sustainable development, the LBT Caucus has decided to use an updated version of the statement as our manifesto for SOGI inclusion in the Post-2015 Development Agenda.

This manifesto, entitled Demanding a Post-2015 Development Agenda Inclusive of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (excerpted below) will be open to signatures indefinitely. To add your endorsement to the manifesto, fill out the signature form.

We, the undersigned non-governmental organizations and individuals, are outraged that, despite the United Nations’ decades-long commitment to anti-discrimination, governments engaging in the ongoing Post-2015 discussions have so far failed to meet their obligations towards all human beings. They have done this by sidelining evidence of and broad regional support for sexual rights, the right to development, and the need to recognize a diversity of families, sexualities, and gender identities. They have also selectively ignored segments of their own populations, including people who are targeted for discrimination and violence because of their real or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.

We are deeply disappointed at this attempt to render our experiences, communities, and families invisible. And we stand alongside the people in other groups who have been ignored or isolated in similar ways.

We have been told that sexual orientation and gender identity are "too controversial" and that they have nothing to do with development. We know better. And so do our governments, though many appear to willfully ignore our presence and our realities in all regions of the world.

The Post-2015 agenda is meant to set new, universally applicable, development goals. To do this credibly, this agenda must acknowledge the devastating impact of violence, discrimination and marginalization in our lives everywhere. Study after study concludes that individuals stigmatized or targeted because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity face discrimination, violence and bullying that can force us out of growing environments. People assumed to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, or trans* are kicked out of housing or denied employment, facts that have direct impact on our lives and earning potential. Legal and socially condoned discrimination against our communities marginalizes many of us, putting us at additional risk of violence, HIV, and other health problems. Discrimination and stigma further prevents us from seeking or receiving needed care. Too often, the result is preventable suffering, institutional violence and poverty.

We are outraged at the continued criminalization of our organizing, restrictions on our freedoms of expression and association, and the relentless attacks on our human rights. These violations take place in all regions. Dialogue and democracy require respect for diversity, not criminal sanctions for human rights defenders, health professionals, and anyone who does not adhere to prevailing social mores. The criminalization of sexual orientation and gender identity, and related homophobia and transphobia do not translate into lasting social benefit for anyone. Quite to the contrary, as the World Bank recently concluded, hateful policies have both an economic and a personal cost.

At the 58th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), the LBT Caucus—a group of LBT activists from around the world—wrote a statement demanding the inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) in the CSW process. The LBT statement received overwhelming support and was signed by over 70 organizations and more than 20 individuals. Because LGBT people and issues related to SOGI are often invisibilized in discussions of sustainable development, the LBT Caucus has decided to use an updated version of the statement as our manifesto for SOGI inclusion in the Post-2015 Development Agenda.

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