The 25th session of the UN Human Rights Council took place from March 3 – 28 2014. The first week of the four-week session comprised of a ‘High-level segment’ during which high-level dignitaries addressed the Council. Below is a round-up of sexual rights-related news from the 25th session of the Council.
SRI and WILPF respond to the ‘protection of the family’ initiative
A joint statement, initiated by a core group of States regarding ‘the responsibilities of states under international law to provide protection for the family’ was delivered during this session of the Council. The SRI and Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) drafted a response that highlights the reality that the family is often the site of human rights violations, such as domestic abuse, and outlines the dangers associated with the initiative, including running counter to the Council’s work to tackle issues that often take place within families, including early and forced marriages and domestic violence.
Parallel event: Intersectionality and Impunity: locating sexual orientation and gender identity in human rights – March 9th 2014
The SRI participated in and co-sponsored a side event on human rights violations experienced by diverse groups which discussed the intersecting similarities in the root causes of such rights violations, the types of violations suffered and ways to address them. The event brought together diverse stakeholders to discuss the widespread need for advocacy related to sexual orientation, gender identities and expressions, and situated such advocacy in a broader framework of human rights, sexuality and gender. The event identified avenues for strategic partnerships and engagements to promote human rights within a mainstream human rights discourse, and encouraged States to consider the root causes of violence and discrimination against people who do not confirm to sexuality and gender norms, including on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity. It also called for raising awareness of the many intersectionalities between issues of sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, other sexual rights issues, and other human rights issues, including reproductive rights.
Parallel event: Intersex People and Human Rights: Violations, Voices and Visions – March 11th, 2014
“For the first time intersex activists from around the world [held] an event at the United Nations on the particular human rights violations and challenges faced by intersex people. At a side event to the 25th Session of the Human Rights Council, activists from four countries [discussed] the genital mutilation, torture, psychological trauma, and discrimination that intersex people face because of our bodily diversity. During this groundbreaking event, presenters [called] for concrete action that states and the international community must take to protect this here-to silenced populations.
Panelists also [discussed] progress that has been made in some countries, urging UN member states and the UN human rights mechanisms to enact similar action to protect human rights for everyone, everywhere. For example, presenters [underscored] the urgent need to depathologise variations of physical sex characteristics in medical guidelines, protocols and classifications, like the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Diseases.”
Click here for more information.
SRI oral statement statements
All statements can be read and viewed here.
Sexual Rights-related discussions & presentation of reports
- Annual full-day meeting on the rights of the child
- High Level dialogue on sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
- Annual discussion on the human rights of persons with disabilities
- Panel on the promotion and protection of civil society Space
Click here to see video recordings of all discussions.
- Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier De Schutter
Recommendations from the report include: removing all discriminatory provisions in the law, combat discrimination that has its source in social and cultural norms, and use temporary special measures to accelerate the achievement of gender equality, recognizing the need to accommodate the specific time and mobility constraints on women as a result of the existing gender roles, while at the same time redistributing the gender roles by a transformative approach to employment and social protection, mainstreaming a concern for gender in all laws, policies and programs, where appropriate, by developing incentives that reward public administrations which make progress in setting and reaching targets in this regard and adopting multi-sector and multi-year strategies that move towards full equality for women, under the supervision of an independent body to monitor progress, relying on gender-disaggregated data in all areas relating to the achievement of food security.
- Report of the Independent Expert on the issue of human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment, John H. Knox
The report recognizes the impact of environmental harm on women’s reproductive health and elaborates State obligations both within the territory and extraterritorially, as well as obligations relating to women, children and indigenous peoples. It also recognizes that “some groups of women are particularly vulnerable for various reasons, including because they are poor, older, disabled and/or of minority status, which may give rise to the need for additional protection.” The report recommends that States and others take human rights obligations into account in the development and implementation of environmental and development policies.
- Report of the Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, Najat Maalla M’jid
The report discusses the issue of early and forced marriage, highlighting that “despite the adoption of domestic legal frameworks forbidding it, child marriage is rooted in unequal gender status and power relations in society.” The report recognizes that survivors of sexual violence are “at high risk of unwanted pregnancy and of contracting HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases” The report calls on States to establish “sustainable preventive measures that take into account all the underlying factors, including demand; and create “societies in which children and young people are involved in designing solutions and contributing to assessment.”
- Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Margaret Sekaggya
The report highlights “the trends of judicial harassment and stigmatization of women human rights defenders…, and defenders working on sexual and reproductive rights….” and “legislative moves to purportedly curb the promotion of homosexuality and the constraints that defenders of the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons face due to criminalization of same-sex relations in over 75 countries worldwide.” The report concludes that “States have the primary responsibility to ensure that defenders work in a safe and enabling environment. Such an environment should include a conducive legal, institutional and administrative framework; access to justice and an end to impunity for violations against defenders; a strong and independent national human rights institution; policies and programmes with specific attention to women defenders; effective protection policies and mechanisms paying attention to groups at risk; non-State actors that respect and support the work of defenders; safe and open access to international human rights bodies; and a strong, dynamic and diverse community of defenders.” Specific recommendations to States include publically acknowledging “the particular and significant role played by women human rights defenders, and those working on women’s rights or gender issues, and make sure that they are able to work in an environment free from violence and discrimination of any sort;’ and making “sure that defenders can actively participate in the universal periodic review process, including by raising awareness about the process, organizing open and meaningful consultations, including a section about the situation of defenders in the national report, and making concrete recommendations towards the improvement of the environment in which they operate.”
All reports can be accessed here.
Appointment of special mandate holders, postponed until April
Some states successfully argued that the President had failed to satisfactorily justify why he had chosen to select candidates not recommended by the consultative group. In addition, the selected candidates did not adhere to existing norms regarding gender or regional balance. The SRI is concerned that this postponement sets a negative precedent at the Council. It is unclear what impact this will have on the current set of appointments, and future appointments.
Special Mandate holders to be appointed include:
- Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and consequences
- Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography
- Special Rapporteur on the situation on human rights defenders
- Working Group on Discrimination Against Women in Law and in Practice – Latin American and Caribbean Group
- Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living and the right to non-discrimination in that context
UPR 17 Outcomes
Outcomes from the 17th session of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) were reviewed during this session of the HRC. The 17th session of the UPR took place from October 21st to November 1st 2013. The SRI collaborated with organizations and individuals in preparing five reports for: Belize, China, Malaysia, Mexico and Senegal. The SRI delivered statements for the first six States below, commenting on State responses to recommendations.
Belize – Accepted recommendations: “That the Unit on Family Violence and other competent bodies improve search and data collection systems, in order to accurately quantify the magnitude of the problem, its causes and consequences (Spain); and to “Step up efforts to provide information and education on sexually transmitted diseases to its population, as well as to combat stigma against people living with HIV/AIDS (Thailand).”
China – Accepted recommendations to “Maintain its effective protection for the family as the fundamental and natural unit of society (Egypt); and “Improve the quality of maternity services in urban and rural areas, increase the proportion of children born in hospitals and reduce the child mortality rate (Morocco).” Rejected the recommendation to “End the use of harassment, detention, arrest, and extralegal measures such as enforced disappearance to control and silence human rights activists as well as their family members and friends (United States of America);” stating that “There are no arbitrary or extrajudicial detentions in China. All criminal and security detentions are decided on and implemented based on the Criminal Procedure Law and Law on Public Security Administration of China. According to China’s Constitution and relevant laws, all citizens enjoy freedom of speech, the press, assembly, association and religious belief, and shall not harm the national, social and collective interests and legitimate rights of other citizens when exercising the above-mentioned rights. Illegal and criminal activities shall be prosecuted according to law.”
Malaysia – Accepted recommendations to “Take necessary steps to ensure the accessibility of the sexual and reproductive health services in Government facilities (Nigeria); and to “Take effective measures to reverse the increasing trend of HIV/AIDS incidence by strengthening the National Strategic Plan (NSP) on HIV/AIDS Prevention (Nigeria).” Rejected all recommendations related to the decriminalization of sexual relations between consenting adults of the same sex, and guaranteeing the rights of individuals with diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions.
Malta – Accepted recommendations to “Further progress in combating all forms of discrimination, including against LGBT persons, through the introduction and implementation of appropriate legislation, policy and practice (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland),” to “Maintain protection of the right to life from conception to natural death (Holy See); and to “Take concrete steps in ensuring comprehensive sexuality education for children and young people (Finland).” Rejected recommendations to “Review the definition of rape so that the lack of consent has a central place in this criminal conduct (Uruguay);” and “Review legislation on abortion and ensure that women have access to legal abortion health services, especially in cases where their life or health is at risk (Belgium).”
Mexico – Accepted recommendations to “Strengthen sexual and reproductive health services to ensure that women who qualify for legal abortion services are able to access safe, timely, quality and free services in all Mexican states (Netherlands);” and “Enact and enforce laws to reduce incidences of violence against women and girls (Sierra Leone).”
Senegal – Accepted recommendations, which it believes are already being implemented, to “Maintain and reinforce all measures aimed at eradicating female genital mutilation, which is often related to other forms of aggression against women (Brazil);”and “Enact legislation that penalizes cases of rape, abuse and incest, to raise awareness on these issues, and to actively pursue the punishment of those guilty of those crimes (Netherlands).” Rejected all recommendations related to the decriminalization of sexual relations between consenting adults of the same sex, and guaranteeing the rights of individuals with diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions.
Central African Republic – Accepted recommendations to “Establish training and awareness mechanisms to combat sexual violence against women and fight the culture of denial and stigma so the women may seek medical care and establish judicial complaints against perpetrators (Netherlands);” and “Take additional steps to strengthen the sexual and reproductive health and rights of girls and women (Sweden).”
Chad – Accepted recommendations to “Adopt the Penal Code and apply its provisions relating to violence against women, including female genital mutilations and other sexual violence, early and enforced marriage (Cape Verde);” and “Launch awareness-raising campaigns to address harmful traditional practices that adversely affect the implementation of its human rights commitments (Sierra Leone).” Rejected recommendation to “Prioritize the implementation of the reproductive health law and provide for sanctions against the perpetrators of the crimes of female genital mutilation, early marriage and domestic and sexual violence, ensuring the investigation of the cases as well as the prosecution and punishment of the perpetrators (Uruguay).”
Congo – Accepted recommendations to” Create a system, to include training for law enforcement, legal professionals and health care personnel, for providing legal and medical aid to survivors of gender based violence, including rape and sexual violence, domestic violence, and female genital mutilation (United States of America);” and “Ensure the implementation of a free birth registration system, exempted from corruption, for all children without discrimination, throughout all the territory of the country (Romania).” Rejected all recommendations related to the decriminalization of sexual relations between consenting adults of the same sex, and guaranteeing the rights of individuals with diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions.
Israel – Accepted recommendations to ‘Redouble efforts to fill the gaps among the infant and maternal mortality rates of Jewish, Arab-Israeli and Bedouin children and women (Belgium); and ‘Introduce an alternative civil legal framework for marriage and divorce as an equally accessible option for everyone (Czech Republic).” Rejected all recommendations containing the term ‘State of Palestine.”
Jordan – Accepted recommendations to “Ensure the promotion of the family and its protection from social, health and security threats (United Arab Emirates);” and “Ensure proper and effective investigation of all crimes against women, including those with an “honour” element (Slovakia).” Rejected recommendation to “Amend the Citizenship and Nationality Law to enable Jordanian women to pass on their nationality to their children and spouses on an equal basis with Jordanian men (Norway).”
Mauritius – Accepted recommendations to “Adopt and implement a national plan to combat HIV/AIDS, with an emphasis on prevention (Thailand);” and “Consider mainstreaming sexual and reproductive health education in schools and offering access to contraception to young people (Slovenia).”
Monaco – Accepted recommendations to “Take measures to raise awareness of its new legislation concerning domestic violence and inform victims of violence about their rights and help available to them (Canada);” and “Establish a mechanism that monitors gender equality in employment, wage discrimination against women and discrimination on sexual orientation (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland).”
Nigeria – Accepted recommendations to “Introduce laws against female genital mutilation in all states, takes steps to ensure access to justice for women who are victims of violence; and that the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Bill is passed by the Senate (Ireland);” and “Ensure the protection of children’s human rights by reducing and eliminating domestic and international child trafficking, sexual abuse, economic exploitation, “baby farming”, widespread homelessness, abuse stemming from belief in child witchcraft, and forced conversions (Holy See).” Rejected all recommendations related to the decriminalization of sexual relations between consenting adults of the same sex, and guaranteeing the rights of individuals with diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions.
Saudi Arabia – Accepted recommendations to “Enforce legislation that criminalizes all forms of violence against women, including the Protection from Harm Act, and establish a system of regular data collection on such crimes (Republic of Moldova);” and “Give full legal identity to all women residing in the Kingdom (Norway);” Rejected the recommendation to “Put an end, by royal decree, to the system of guardianship of adult women (Switzerland).”
All Reports from the Working Groups, containing all recommendations received by States Under Review can be accessed here. All UPR statements delivered by the SRI during this session can be viewed here.
Sexual Rights UPR database
The Sexual Rights Initiative has launched a Universal Periodic Review (URP) Sexual Rights database. This database allows you to access and search all the sexual rights related recommendations and references made during the Universal Periodic Review through several categories including: State under Review, Source of Reference, Type of Reference and Thematic Issue, using either the basic or advanced search options. For more information, click here.