U.N. Draft Resolution Against Extrajudicial Executions Includes Gender Identity

The draft resolution approved in the Third Committee of the General Assembly mentions gender identity as a characteristic warranting protection from unlawful executions for the first time.

BY Julie Bolcer

November 23 2012 6:00 PM ET UPDATED: November 23 2012 9:38 PM ET

International LGBT human rights advocates made the inclusion of the gender identity language a top priority this year. Jessica Stern, the executive director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, said her organization and its partner groups had prepared for a strenuous fight over the issue, but no such battle emerged.

Stern told The Advocate the atmosphere appeared to have changed in the past two years, where recent advances laid groundwork that made the passage of the draft resolution possible. Notably, Japan became the first member of the Asian group of nations to speak in favor of LGBT rights during the vote.

“It took very little work from us to help bring about those statements,” said Stern. “The environment is primed. The states are ready for this.”

On the other hand, she said the Philippines, which abstained from the vote on the amendment to remove the sexual orientation and gender identity language, delivered a “disappointment.” The country had pledged during a recent meeting in Geneva to lead on LGBT human rights issues. Advocates from the Philippines have been trying to pass anti-discrimination legislation in their country.

The vote on the draft resolution is expected to be final because the measure passed. When it next comes up for a vote in 2014, opponents could once again attempt to remove the sexual orientation and gender identity language. 

Stern said the while a resolution denouncing killings outside the law may sound like it sets a “low bar,” the measure establishes a baseline of consensus among states and informs the work of the UN’s Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions. She said her organization was still studying how the resolution would affect its partner groups working on the ground. The resolution is not legally binding and it does not impose financial repercussions on violators.

“To fight for recognition for the right to life is the lowest bar, but if we don’t know where the floor is, how can we reach the ceiling?” she said.

Partner groups working around the world hailed the resolution in a joint statement released by IGLHRC.

"The passage of this resolution is the recognition that the lives and dignity of trans people (transsexual, transgender, transvestite and intersex) and of lesbian, gay and bisexual people cannot continue to be taken with impunity,” said Andrés Rivera Duarte, director of the Organización de Transexuales por la Dignidad de la Diversidad in Chile. “Today people are executed and/or murdered because of their sexual orientation and gender identity, which is an aberration we should be ashamed of as a society and as human beings. Today, states have spoken. They have recognized that life is a right and that they have the responsibility to protect it regardless of an individual's sexual orientation and gender identity. Today the work of civil society has paid off, and we can move forward continuing to advance rights.”

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