UN: Council set for key debate on sexual orientation and gender identiity

Summary: Further to the first ever UN Resolution on sexual orientation and gender identity, and the subsequent report compiled by the High Commissioner for Human Rights, a panel discussion will take place on 7 March in Geneva.

On 17 June, in a ground-breaking achievement for upholding the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the Human Rights Council passed a resolution on human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity (L9/rev1), the first UN resolution ever to bring specific focus to human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

The resolution requested the High Commissioner for Human Rights to prepare a study on violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, and called for a panel discussion to be held at the 19th session to discuss the findings of the study in a constructive and transparent manner, and to consider appropriate follow-up.

The report recommends, amongst other things, that laws criminalising homosexuality be repealed, that comprehensive anti-discrimination laws be put in place which include discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and that asylum laws do not allow return of such persons to countries where their life or freedom would be at risk because of this.

Panel discussion: 7 March

The panel discussion will take place on Wednesday 7 March in Geneva, with the following panelists:

Opening remarks:

  • Ms Laura Dupuy Lasserre, President of the Human Rights Council
  • Mr Ban Ki-moon, United Nations Secretary- General (Video Message)
  • Ms Navi Pillay, High Commissioner for Human Rights


  • Mr Abdul Minty, Permanent Representative of the Republic of South Africa


  • Irina Karla Bacci (Brazil): Vice-President, National Council for LGBT Persons, Brazil
  • Laurence Helfer (USA): Co-Director, Center for International and Comparative Law, Duke University, USA
  • Hina Jilani (Pakistan): chair, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan; former Special Representative of the Secretary- General on human rights defenders
  • Hans Ytterberg (Sweden): Chairperson of the Council of Europe Expert Committee on Discrimination on Grounds of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

Difficult debate expected

International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) followed the organisational meeting ahead of the debate. They posted this report:

South Africa stated that it hoped for an open dialogue to promote understanding on this issue, but that the opinions of all participants would be respected. However, comments during the adoption of the resolution, as well as comments from both Libya and Pakistan during the organisational meeting on their lack of support for resolution 17/19, suggest that it will be a difficult debate.

Pakistan, on behalf of the OIC, 'objected strongly' to the panel, which it said had 'nothing to do with human rights'. Libya claimed that the discussion would have a negative impact on the 'survival of the human species, the economy, and the family as the basis of society', adding that if it had not been suspended from the Council at the time it would have voted against the resolution.

The President responded firmly to these interventions, noting that the Council must 'deal with all questions of human rights, without exception' and underlining non-discrimination as a 'key principle of human rights'.

Follow the debate

CRIN will be reporting on the discussions live from Geneva. Visit our 19th session page to keep updated. You can also watch the debate live on the UN webcast.

pdf: http://www.crin.org/resources/infodetail.asp?id=27738

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