New report finds UN Human Rights mechanism to be the most progressive international arena for furthering LGBTI rights

A new report has found that the most progressive arena for the protection of human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex (LGBTI) persons at international level to be the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the United Nations Human Rights Council – a peer-review mechanism for the human rights records of all 193 UN member states.

Published today by the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI), in collaboration with ARC International and the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA), Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression, and Sex Characteristics at the Universal Periodic Review finds, among other things, that:

  • Over eight years, 46,584 recommendations have been made at the UPR. Of these, 1,110 were specific to sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and sex characteristics (SOGIESC) and were made to 158 states under review from all regions.
  • Of the 1,110 SOGIESC recommendations received, 413 (37 per cent) have been accepted and 697 noted. However, this rate is relatively low in comparison to the overall acceptance rate of UPR recommendations, which is 74 per cent.
  • 40 per cent of the recommendations that called for adopting anti-discrimination laws protecting LGBTI persons have been accepted.

IBAHRI Director, Phillip Tahmindjis stated: ‘This report comes at a time of significant transition for the protection of SOGIESC rights. With the new appointment of a UN Independent Expert on sexual orientation and gender identity, and the tenth anniversary of the creation of the Yogyakarta Principles, the world is recognising that the abuse of people in any of the LGBTI categories is simply unacceptable. Although the UPR faces challenges, the positive developments highlighted in the report are encouraging. An opportunity to address the challenges has arisen and recommendations have been offered which could lead to an even greater contribution by the UPR in protecting SOGIESC rights. We must maintain momentum.’

In addition to providing an overview of the role played by the UPR and the key challenges of the process in shaping the protection of LGBTI rights, the report includes recommendations specific to the different stakeholders: states under review, recommending states, civil society, lawyers and legal associations. Examples of recommendations include:

  • To ensure that LGBTI and SOGIESC human rights defenders are not subject to reprisals;
  • To more systematically address the need for states to monitor and collect data on discrimination and violence against LGBTI persons;
  • To ask for training of key stakeholders on SOGIESC issues, such as legal and health professionals;
  • To assist in training communities, law enforcement officers, judges and members of the government on the principles of universality, equality and non-discrimination; and
  • To foster legal debate on the legal protection of LGBTI persons, taking into account international norms and recommendations.

IBAHRI Co-Chair, Ambassador (ret.) Hans Corell commented:‘This new report is extremely useful for analysing the protection of the rights of LGBTI persons internationally. It is now imperative that we recognise and promote the legal basis of the UPR recommendations to help them gain greater traction and credibility in the international sphere. The IBAHRI will continue working to increase the impact of the UPR and, in particular, continue our support of legal professionals, associations and civil society in advancing the rights of the LGBTI community at the UN level.’

For more information on the report, its key findings and recommendations download the Executive Summary here.

Click here to download the full report: Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression and Sex Characteristics at the Universal Periodic Review.


Notes to the Editor

  1. The report was written by: Dodo Karsay, ARC International Research and Information Officer; Diana Carolina Prado Mosquera, ILGA UN Programme officer; and Helene Ramos Dos Santos, IBAHRI Senior Fellow–UN Liaison.
  2. Created in 2006 by the United Nations Human Rights Council, the UPR is a unique UN mechanism to promote and protect human rights amongst all 193 UN member states. It is a peer assessment, whereby each state’s human rights record is reviewed, and calls to action for improvements are given by other states. The state-driven process is designed to encourage states to respect and uphold universal human rights.
  3. The International Bar Association (IBA), established in 1947, is the world’s leading organisation of international legal practitioners, bar associations and law societies. Through its global membership of individual lawyers, law firms, bar associations and law societies it influences the development of international law reform and shapes the future of the legal profession throughout the world. The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI), an autonomous and financially independent entity, works to promote, protect and enforce human rights under a just rule of law, and to preserve the independence of the judiciary and the legal profession worldwide.
  4. Since 2003, ARC International has been advancing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights. ARC plays a unique role in facilitating strategic planning around LGBT issues internationally, strengthening global networks and enhancing access to UN mechanisms. ARC has been successful in engaging UN mechanisms around sexual orientation and gender identity issues, and bringing international support to the work of NGOs worldwide.
  5. The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA)is the world federation of national and local organisations dedicated to achieving equal rights for LGBTI people. ILGA is an umbrella organisation of more than 1200 member organisations present in six different regions. As the only global federation of LGBTI organisations, ILGA voices its agenda in various United Nations fora – including the Human Rights Council, where it helps members question their government’s record on LGBTI rights in the frame of the UPR.


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