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Respect for sexual orientation, gender identity and sex characteristics

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Human Rights Day message from the APF Chairperson

10 Dec 2022  

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Equality and freedom from discrimination are fundamental human rights that belong to everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity or sex characteristics.

However, lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex (LGBTI) people in the Asia Pacific region can experience shocking levels of violence, harassment and discrimination.

This includes extra-judicial killing, torture, rape, arbitrary detention, unfair trials and, in the case of women, forced pregnancy and forced marriage. They face exclusion and discrimination in relation to work, education and accessing health and housing services.

People who are gender diverse can also face barriers getting legal recognition of their sex in official documents and government records.

In April 2017, LGBTI activists and allies from different corners of the globe came together to develop a roadmap for equality.

Ten years on from the adoption of the Yogyakarta Principles, an international conference organised by the APF and UNDP considered a range of practical steps to better promote and protect the fundamental human rights of LGBTI people.

Graphic: LGBT I community in India celebrates around rainbow flag

Promoting and Protecting Human Rights: Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Sex Characteristics

The APF-UNDP manual explores how NHRIs can work with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex communities and better advocate for their rights

National human rights institutions (NHRIs) in the Asia Pacific region are strong advocates for the rights of all people, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or sex characteristics.

The Yogyakarta Principles provide a framework for the work of our members, which includes research, recommendations for reform of laws and policies, investigating and resolving complaints and education and awareness raising activities. They do this work by establishing strong partnerships with LGBTI organisations.

On the international stage, NHRIs draw attention to the rights of LGBTI people in their reports to human rights treaty bodies, the Universal Periodic Review and other UN bodies.

The APF has been actively and consistently supporting our members in this vital area of work over the past decade.

Representatives from NHRIs and civil society groups describe the challenges facing LGBTI people and the need to establish strong partnerships to better advocate for their rights.

2016-2017: APF-UNDP partnership to strengthen NHRIs

The APF and UNDP Asia Pacific Regional Hub entered into an 18-month partnership agreement to support NHRIs in the region to better work with LGBT) communities and advocate for their human rights. The partnership has delivered a wide range of practical outcomes, including a world-first publication, a blended learning training program, an international conference and practical guidelines for NHRIs to mainstream LGBTI rights into their everyday work.

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2015: Workshop on the Role of National Human Rights Institutions in Promoting and Protecting the Human Rights of LGBTI people in Asia and the Pacific

A new roadmap to guide NHRI activities was adopted in February 2015 at a regional workshop convened by the APF and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in cooperation with the Asia Pacific Coalition on Male Sexual Health (APCOM). The workshop involved representatives from 16 APF members and representatives from civil society organisations in the Asia Pacific region.

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2012-2013: Documenting the capacity of national human rights institutions

Over the year to March 2013, the APF, the International Development Law Organization, UNDP and SAARCLAW (the legal apex body of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) worked with NHRIs in Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Nepal, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Timor Leste to document their capacity to promote the rights of people of diverse sexual orientation and gender identity and to respond to human rights violations. The process revealed strong efforts by these NHRIs to build their institutional capacity and to foster relationships with diverse sexual orientation and gender identity communities.

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2010-2011: Supporting the initiatives of our members

In 2010, the APF coordinated a joint funding application to secure financial support to assist four member institutions implement a range of targeted activities to raise awareness and bolster protection for the rights of LGBTI people. The projects, undertaken by the NHRIs of Australia, Mongolia, New Zealand and the Philippines all took place prior to April 2011.

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2010: Advisory Council of Jurists reference

The APF's Advisory Council of Jurists conducted an in-depth study of the domestic laws and policies relating to sexual orientation and gender identity in each of the 17 APF member institutions at that time. The report, published in December 2010, assessed the consistency of these laws and policies with international human rights standards and provided recommendations to assist NHRIs address identified shortcomings. The ACJ report and recommendations provide a framework for the work of our members in promoting and protecting the rights of people of diverse sexuality and gender identity.

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2009: APF Regional Workshop on the Yogyakarta Principles

In May 2009, the APF brought together member institutions to discuss the role of NHRIs in promoting implementation of the Yogyakarta Principles. The regional workshop, the first of its kind, concluded with a range of concrete outcomes that helped provide a roadmap for our members to plan and undertake work in their countries to promote the human rights of people of diverse sexual orientation and gender identity.

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International recognition of SOGISC rights

The rights of people of diverse sexual orientation, gender identity and sex characteristics are increasingly being given greater attention through the international human rights system. NHRIs are also raising the issue at the UN Human Rights Council and in their reports to the human rights treaty bodies and the Universal Periodic Review.

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Image credits

  1. People holding a large rainbow flag - Carrie Kellenberger, Flickr; http://bit.ly/1MacxL5