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U.N. Steps Up Efforts Against Anti-LGBTQ+ Violence and Discrimination

United Nations building in Switzerland

The United Nations Human Rights Council Thursday adopted four new resolutions, including one in which it extends the mandate of the independent expert on protection from violence and discrimination related to sexual orientation and gender identity for three years.

The mandate for the independent expert was first approved in 2016 and renewed in 2019. In this year’s renewal resolution, the Human Rights Council called on member states to repeal laws and policies that discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity and take effective measures to prevent violence and discrimination. The independent expert is to report back annually on the implementation of the mandate to the council and the U.N. General Assembly. The current independent expert is Victor Madrigal-Borloz, a judge from Costa Rica and a senior visiting researcher at Harvard Law School’s Human Rights Program.

Madrigal-Borloz said in a tweet that he was "delighted" by the news of the renewal, adding that he was "as humbled & honored as the first day to continue serving persons, communities and peoples affected from discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity."

This year’s resolution marked “the first time that the Human Rights Council adopted a resolution explicitly condemning legislation that criminalizes consensual same-sex conducts and diverse gender identities and called on states to amend discriminatory legislation and combat violence on the grounds” of sexual orientation and gender identity,” according to a press release from ILGA World and other international LGBTQ+ rights organizations.

“Once again, the main U.N. human rights body made it clear: violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity must be prevented,” Gabriel Galil, senior program officer on U.N. advocacy at ILGA World, said in the release. “This historic resolution takes significant steps forward that were long claimed by our communities: it denounces the negative impacts of criminalization of consensual same-sex conducts and diverse gender identities and calls on UN member States to amend discriminatory legislation, take measures to combat violence, and to protect the civic space of organizations working on SOGI issues.”

The resolution was carried by a vote of 23-17, with seven abstentions. Thirteen “hostile amendments” were proposed, the ILGA release notes, and all but one rejected. Text of the adopted amendment wasn’t immediately available, but “the core of the resolution affirming the universal nature of international human rights law stands firm,” the release says.

“Billions of people continue to live with laws and societal attitudes that put them in danger,” Manisha Dhakal of the Blue Diamond Society in Nepal said in the release. “Acknowledging that so much work remains to be done, the Council once again reaffirmed its commitment to combatting discrimination and violence on grounds of SOGI, reminding all States of their obligations towards these communities.”

The council Thursday “also adopted resolutions on the importance of casualty recording for the promotion and protection of human rights; human rights and the regulation of civilian acquisition, possession, and use of firearms; and access to medicines, vaccines, and other health products in the context of the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health,” says a U.N. press release.

They were among 23 resolutions adopted by the council during its regular session in Geneva, Switzerland, which ended Friday. Others included the extension of mandates aimed at combating violence and discrimination against women and girls, a call for states to adopt the Paris Agreement on fighting climate change, and measures to support the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan. The council will begin its next regular session September 12.

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