MEDIA RELEASE: AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa (ARASA) strongly condemns the resolution tabled by African states against United Nations Independent Expert to protect LGBTI rights

Posted by Editor on November 7, 2016

The protection of human rights is essential to ensuring access to sexual and reproductive health services, especially in relation to issues of sexual orientation and gender identity. Even in countries that offer legal protection to the LGBTI community, the reality faced by the individuals who live there is often far from reflective of this protection. Ongoing violence against lesbian women who have sex with other women in South Africa and recent backlashes against the LGBTI community in Malawi and Tanzania, prove that there is still a long way to go. Efforts to protect the rights of LGBTI people should be encouraged, not opposed.
Michaela Clayton, ARASA Director

Screen_Shot_2016-11-08_at_2.22.22_PM.pngMEDIA RELEASE: For immediate release 

AIDS AND RIGHTS ALLIANCE FOR SOUTHERN AFRICA (ARASA) STRONGLY CONDEMNS RESOLUTION TABLED BY AFRICAN STATES AGAINST UNITED NATIONS INDEPENDENT EXPERT TO PROTECT LGBTI RIGHTS

Windhoek, Namibia, 7 November 2016: The AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa (ARASA) strongly condemns the resolution tabled by African states to halt the work of the first United Nations (UN) Independent Expert appointed to help protect the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people.

The United Nations Human Rights Council created the position in June 2016 and in September appointed Vitit Muntarbhorn, who has a three-year mandate to investigate and address human rights abuses against LGBTI people. On Friday, 4 November 2016, African states circulated a draft resolution to the United Nations General Assembly Third Committee, which deals with human rights, calling for consultations on the legality of the creation of the mandate. "We call for the suspension of the activities of the appointed Independent Expert pending the determination of this issue," Botswana's UN Ambassador Charles Ntwaagae, speaking for the Africa group, told the committee.

ARASA strongly condemns this move by African states. The Yogyakarta Principles on the application of International Human Rights Law in relation to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity recommends that states cease any state-sponsored or state-condoned attacks of persons based on sexual orientation or gender identity, and ensure that all such attacks, whether by government officials or by any individual or group, are vigorously investigated, and that, where appropriate evidence is found, those responsible are prosecuted, tried and duly punished. The appointment of the United Nations (UN) Independent Expert gives practical effect to these principles and shows the commitment of the United Nations to upholding the human rights of LGBTI people globally.

In a report entitled Identifying Injustice: Laws and Policy on Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and HIV in Southern Africa released by ARASA in June 2016, ARASA outlines how laws and policies in ten countries in Southern Africa impact the lives, heath and rights of LGBTI people. The report highlights how despite existing national, regional and international human rights protections, LGBTI people in southern Africa experience human rights violations concerning free expression, association and assembly on the basis of gender expression.

“The protection of human rights is essential to ensuring access to sexual and reproductive health services, especially in relation to issues of sexual orientation and gender identity. Even in countries that offer legal protection to the LGBTI community, the reality faced by the individuals who live there is often far from reflective of this protection. Ongoing violence against lesbian women who have sex with other women in South Africa and recent backlashes against the LGBTI community in Malawi and Tanzania, prove that there is still a long way to go. Efforts to protect the rights of LGBTI people should be encouraged, not opposed,” stated ARASA Director, Michaela Clayton.

In a welcome move in 2014 the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights adopted Resolution 275 on Protection against Violence and other Human Rights Violations against Persons on the basis of their real or imputed Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity .The passing of this resolution was a significant recognition on the African continent that LGBTI people are just that – people – whose rights must be protected.

 Botswana's Ambassador told the General Assembly Third Committee on Friday that the committee should not be looking into "sexual orientation and gender identity" as "those two notions are not and should not be linked to existing international human rights instruments." The group is allegedly concerned that gay rights issues would take precedence over "other issues of paramount importance, such as the right to development and the racism agenda."  This is both surprising and disappointing, given the recognition afforded by the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights to the human rights of all people, including LGBTI people.

ARASA calls on the United Nations Third committee to disregard the resolution proposed by the Africa group and to continue investigating and addressing human rights violations against LGBTI people in the region. ARASA also calls upon states to develop and implement at country level, human rights strategies to address legal and policy enabled discrimination against LGBTI persons, with a focus on barriers in accessing health facilities and services and HIV related care and services.

ENDS

 Note to editors:

The report Identifying Injustice: Laws and Policy on Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and HIV in Southern Africa can be found here: http://www.arasa.info/news/laws-and-policies-sexual-orientation-and-gender-identity-southern-africa-need-urgent-revision/

Injustice in Malawi: Violations of the human rights of LGBTI people, a short film by ARASA, can be found here: https://youtu.be/x9MDZL2cUCg

 

For more information, request for photographs contained in the report and to arrange interviews, contact:

 

1. Lesley Odendal, Communications Lead

communications@arasa.com or +27 72 960 8991 or

 

2. Felicita Hikuam, Deputy Director

felicita@arasa.com or +27 76 869 1051

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The AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa (ARASA) is a partnership of 106 civil society organisations working together to promote a human rights based response to HIV and TB in southern and east Africa.

 

For more information on ARASA’s work and its partners, please visit: www.arasa.info