Justice and Protection for All – IDAHOBIT 2019
The theme of this year’s International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Interphobia and Transphobia,IDAHOBIT) is ‘Justice and Protection for all’. For National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs), justice and protection are fundamental to our adherence to the Paris Principles which require us to protect and promote the human rights of every citizen.
The Commonwealth Forum of National Human Rights Institutions is committed to protecting and promoting human rights for all. This includes strengthening the capacity of our members to protect and improve Sexual Identity and Gender Expression (SOGI) rights at a national level, and to share our expertise with other regional networks to advance this issue globally.
Internationally NHRIs can use our platforms to advocate and raise awareness of SOGI rights through the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) and encourage governments to develop clear plans for action. Earlier this year the Forum invited NHRIs and experts from Civil Society organisations and the UN to discuss how the UPR can enhance the monitoring and implementation of recommendations for minority rights, specifically sexual orientation and gender identity.
As experts in human rights, we are also well positioned to provide advice and guidance to actors such as businesses and NGOs, on the Stonewall, National Human Rights Commission of Bangladesh, Google complicated factors which lead to abuses of human rights. At the 2018 UN Forum on Business and Human Rights, we brought together NHRIs, Civil Society Organisations, and Business to discuss how we can work better together to improve public engagement with SOGI rights protections, as well as advocacy and non-discrimination for LGTBI people within our workforces.
We still have a long road to travel until the human rights of every person everywhere is respected, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, however, there are encouraging examples of progress on SOGI rights from NHRIs across the Commonwealth.
To mark IDAHOBIT 2019 the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights released a statement calling on the Kenyan government to adopt a comprehensive equality and non-discrimination law affording protection to all individuals, irrespective of their sexual orientation, gender identity, expression and sex characteristics.
Last month the Ombudsman of Namibia hosted a roundtable with government, civil society organisations, academia, and faith-based organisations in order to improve inclusion and service provision for LGBTI people and communities.
In collaboration with law enforcement agencies and Samoa Fa’afafine Association, Samoa’s NHRI has developed a National Action Plan which contains various activities to improve access to justice and right to health for Fa’afafine and Fa’afatama communities in Samoa.
And the National Human Rights Commission of Bangladesh has been working with Hijra and transgender communities to identify the key challenges to achieving legal gender recognition of transgender people.
As we reflect on this work we keep in mind the challenges and complexity inherent to working on this issue. However, we must take a moment to celebrate the achievements that have been secured so far, made possible by the work of the many human rights defenders from across the globe.
We look forward in hope of the change this collective action can bring.
Asia Pacific Forum has been working on SOGI rights with its members for over a decade. In partnership with UNDP they produced guidelines for NHRIs on mainstreaming work on SOGI which are available here