BY LIAM DALTON, The Guardian
The Social, Humanitarian, and Cultural General Assembly has submitted and discussed several working papers relating to the inclusion of gender and sexual minorities into the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The inclusion of such terminology thus recognizes and affirms members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Intersex (LGBTQI+) community as equal global citizens, and paves the way for a more inclusive society.
Worryingly, two abstract and contradictory working papers have emerged as front runners to addressing this global concern, which may not only halt the substantial progress the LGBTQI+ community has made in recent decades, but scale these efforts back.
Working Paper 1.1
Working paper 1.1 contains the most signatories and is driven by the Delegations of France and Iran. The 17-clause document looks impressive, but fails to address any substantive LGBTQI+ concerns head on, choosing to talk about ‘colonialism’ in cl. 4(d), and the environment in 5(c).
Furthermore, 1.1 contradicts itself by creating four classifications of rights: fundamental, civil and political, economic, and environmental in cl. 2, yet reiterating that all rights are fundamental by nature and cannot be separated from one another in cl. 4(b).
Later clauses fail to adequately relate proposed solutions back to central issues facing the rainbow community; such loopholes have been used for decades to undermine LGBTQI+ individuals along with other minorities. For example, cl. 5(d) reiterates the right to attack or use aggression with legitimate reason, but does not affirm that being part of the LGBTQI+ community does not constitute a ‘legitimate reason for being attacked’. Similarly, cl. 7(c) affirms the rights of a family through the use of gender neutral language, but the wording of the clause demands that the family be constituted through marriage thus failing to address the reality that only 30 member states allow same-sex marriage under domestic law, and thus there protections will not apply in 163 member states. Lastly, cl. 8(a) calls for access to education be purely based on the ‘merit’ of a person, but does not expressly state that gender identity or sexual preferences shall not be considered as going towards a person’s merit.
Working Paper 1.2
Working paper 1.2 is driven by the Delegations of Russia, China, Macedonia, and Brazil. The bloc and its working paper represents the more conservative member states and the desire not to have Western values infringe upon their sovereignty and religious practices. This working paper fails to address LGBTQI+ concerns in any material form, failing in several ways:
- Cl. 3 suggests the rewording of United Nations documents to include ‘his/her’ pronouns, which reinforces the notion of a gender binary system and thus totally neglects the issue of gender diverse people failing to be recognised by the state.
- Cl. 4(b)(ii) and 15 call upon member nations to protect LGBTQI+ communities from arbitrary punishment. This proposal, whilst well intentioned, seems to conflict with the activities of The Russian Federation who systematically imprison LGBTQI+ individuals in Chechnya and subject them to conversion therapy. This clause would also conflict with policies in nations such as Japan, who demand transgender individuals be sterilized if they wish to undergo sexual reassignment surgery, a clearly cruel and arbitrary punishment.
- Working paper 1.2 then broadly calls for ‘trials’ to be held for those who take action against the LGBTQI+ community under cl. 7(b)(iv). It does not specify whether such trials are criminal or civil, whether they are to be conducted by a domestic or international court, and what is to happen when such actions have been authorized by the state.
- Later, in clause 10, the bloc then acknowledges that the LGBTQI+ community has been treated poorly in regards to human rights, but then improvements on such rights were not explicitly to be considered in the summit they wish to establish relating to international improvements in adherence to the UDHR.
There appears to be little hope for a material improvement in LGBTQI+ rights if these working papers become draft resolutions. Serious reconsideration of these policies will be necessary to address the concerns of this community, and produce a solution that is worth adopting.