Historic resolution on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

June 21, 2011

Posted by Enrique Restoy

Coordinator: Human Rights Advocacy and Campaigns

The Alliance sees the first UN resolution ever to focus exclusively on human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity as an enormously positive step forward.

The Human Rights Council’s text is unequivocal in defending that everyone is entitled to all rights and freedoms without distinction of any kind; it expresses the concern of the international community about acts of violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity; and requests the High Commissioner for Human Rights to prepare a specific study on the issue to be discussed by a panel of discussion.

The resolution came just a few days after our colleagues from Alliance member organizations and the Alliance secretariat returned from New York, after long days and nights of lobbying at the High Level Meeting on AIDS. The meeting ended with a Political Declaration on HIV and AIDS which will guide the global response to the epidemic until 2015.

The declaration on HIV and AIDS had left us all a with a bitter-sweet taste when it came to human rights. The text clearly committed to a rights-based approach to the HIV response, which is a big step forward for the rights of those who are most vulnerable and at higher risk to HIV. However there was a feeling that some signatories were holding back on embracing human rights whole  heartedly. Whenever the text mentions rights, there is a sentence reaffirming national sovereignty or the cultural, social or religious contexts specific to each state.

For the first time, a Political Declaration on HIV has made explicit mention of men who have sex with men, along with people who use drugs and sex workers as populations at higher risk of HIV. But why did it take 30 years for men who have sex with men to be acknowledged this way? How much longer will it take for transgender people, the population with the higher HIV prevalence worldwide, to also be included in a Political Declaration on AIDS?

In a matter of days, the same international community that had failed to fully endorse all the rights of sexual minorities in relation to the HIV response adopted this historic resolution.

Why such a difference in language around sexuality and gender identity in just one week? The answer is in the different nature of both texts: The Political Declaration had to be adopted by consensus. The Human Rights Council resolution was voted. It was narrowly passed with 23 yeas, 19 nays, and 3 abstentions.

However, the international community has spoken. The HIV response must be guided by the Human Rights Council resolution on human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity along with the Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS. We will only see an effective international HIV/AIDS response when the human rights of sexual minorities and people who are at higher risk of HIV are taken into account in all strategies for prevention treatment, care and support.

Read more on the resolution (in Spanish)

Learn more about HIV prevention at our campaign website

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