UN successfully defends post of independent LGBT rights protector

November 23, 2016

It is with relief that Hivos learned that professor Vitit Muntarbhorn, the first UN Independent Expert on sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI), can continue to fulfill his task.

The position of Independent Expert on SOGI was created earlier this year by the UN Human Rights Council. Mr. Muntarbhorn’s mandate is to protect the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people worldwide and to investigate the violence and discrimination against them.

In early November, the African Group, presented a hostile resolution on the Human Rights Council Annual Report, specifically targeting the SOGI Independent Expert Mandate. The resolution contested the legality of the creation of the mandate, arguing that SOGI are not universally recognised as human rights and are not codified in international law. It would have been the first time in history that a mandate approved by the Human Rights Council was questioned in the General Assembly.

The SOGI Independent Expert had been originally created after adoption of a resolution in the Human Rights Council in June 2016, initiated by seven Latin American countries, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico and Uruguay. Now, these states, plus El Salvador (LAC 8), filed an amendment that blocked the African Group’s resolution.

Their action was supported by a joint statement of 850 organisations from 157 countries, including Hivos, that highlighted the need to respect the authority of the Human Rights Council and to support the SOGI Independent Expert. This joint action shows how strong the support is for the mandate of Mr. Muntarbhorn.

On 22 November, the hostile resolution aimed at questioning Mr. Muntarbhorn’s mandate was quashed, but votes were close enough to indicate that many states are divided on this issue. For Hivos, this means that we will continue to keep a close eye on these developments and work to influence decision-making in favor of the human rights of all people, including LGBTI. We will also keep supporting local organisations worldwide to advocate with their governments for equal rights of all. Hivos is proud to support people in their right to be who they are and love whom they want.