Poverty and SOGI issues at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC)

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One of Micro Rainbow’s strategic goals over the next five years is to investigate opportunities to engage with intergovernmental organizations, such as the United Nations, and participate in the debate on the socioeconomic rights of LGBTI people across the globe.  We hope to raise awareness of the situation of poverty faced by many LGBTI people in different parts of the world and to formulate recommendations and tools to support them to step out of poverty and to improve their livelihoods.

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Lucas Paoli at the United Nations in Geneva

During 2013 we monitored the work of the UNHRC in Geneva and here is a summary of the reports that refer to the issue of poverty of LGBTI people.

At the 22nd session, held between 25 February and 22 March 2013, there were three reports relevant to our work:

  • The report of the Secretary-General on the question of the realization in all countries of economic, social and cultural rights (A/HRC/22/24) highlighted the negative impact of stigmas in the realization of the human rights to water and sanitation of women in marginalized groups, including sex workers and people living with HIV/AIDS. It also spoke about the importance of the right to sexual education and the need to change social and cultural patterns that perpetuate discrimination and violence against women.
  • The report of the UNHCHR on the right of the child to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health (A/HRC/22/31) recommended that HIV-related services were made universally available to adolescents, as well as prophylaxis for victims of sexual assault.  It also stressed how traditional views on sexuality may limit access to sexual and reproductive health services in some places.
  • The Report of the Special Rapporteur (SR) on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (A/HRC/22/53) appealed the Yogyakarta Principles n. 17 and 18 in order to emphasise the importance of safeguarding informed consent of sexual minorities and condemned homophobic ill-treatment perpetuated by health-care professionals. Moreover, the SR called upon all States to repeal laws that allow forced genital-normalising surgeries and involuntary sterilisation of trans and intersex people.

At the 23rd session, which took place from 27 May to 14 June 2013 there were three reports relevant to our work

  • The Reports of the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights brought specific attention to poverty of LGBTI people during her missions to Namibia and Mongolia in 2012 (A/HRC/23/36/Add.1-Add.2).  The SR included sex workers in the groups particularly vulnerable to poverty in Namibia and argued how discrimination and violence violate their rights to healthcare, education and employment. She also expressed concerns about how LGBT persons and other vulnerable groups are being discriminated by health-care personnel, including by not being able to access condoms. In relation to Mongolia, the SR included LGBT persons among the groups particularly vulnerable to poverty and described the several types of discrimination they face, including in accessing health services, education, employment and in the overall society. The SR further informed that there is a high proportion of the LGBT community living in poverty due to such types of discrimination and stigmatization and made a few recommendations to the Mongolian government.
  • The Report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association (A/HRC/23/39) considered how the decriminalisation of peaceful activities hinder the work of human rights organisations and their possibility to raise funds.  The SR further stated that the right to freedom of peaceful assembly is extremely important to the work of civil society actors, including those promoting the realisation of economic, social and cultural rights of groups which are most at risk, including because of their sexual orientation and gender identity.
  • The Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health (A/HRC/23/41) shed light on some serious problems faced by migrant sex workers, such as decriminalisation, xenophobia and barriers to accessing healthcare services. The Special Rapporteur explained the results of the violations in their rights to health and required States to “decriminalise consensual adult sex work, enact and implement laws extending labour rights, occupational health and safety and access to affordable health care”.
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Entrance of the UN office in Geneva

At the 24th session, which took place on 9-27 September, there were two reports relevant to our work:

  • The Report of the OHCHR on the promotion and protection of the human rights of older persons (A/HRC/24/25) underlined how older LGBTI persons have their physical and mental health and social well being affected by the discrimination suffered throughout their lives;
  • The Report of the Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation (A/HRC/24/44/Add.3) stressed the difficulties faced by migrant sex workers in in Thailand, including poor access to water and sanitation, irregular work and abuse from employers.

At the links below you will find the compilations we made for each of the above mentioned sessions, containing the relevant extracts of the reports as well as links to the full versions on the UN website.  If you are aware of additional material that should be included in this summary, please do let us know and we will include it.

HRC – 22nd session – HRC-22-sogi and poverty

HRC – 23rd session – HRC-23-sogi and poverty

HRC – 24th session – HRC-24-sogi and poverty

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