World Human Rights Day: LGBT rights as human rights
The United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. However, LGBT rights were only officially tied together with basic human rights with the Yogyakarta Principles in 2006.
Fast-forward to 2016, President Barack Obama made his famous speech declaring “the simple truth that LGBT rights are human rights.”
From there, we now have an Independent Investigator for the United Nations with a mandate of looking into abuses against the LGBT.
World Human Rights Day: The Yogyakarta Principles
The UN’s transformation as one of the guardians of LGBT rights took a long time coming though, especially as a lot of its member states still don’t accept LGBT rights as part of the universal human rights.
This isn’t a surprise: the UN first didn’t accept the Yogyakarta Principles– a set of principles that would apply the standards of international human rights law to sexual orientation and gender identity– when it was presented to the General Assembly.
These principles were created by a group of international jurists, human rights advocates, and LGBT experts in 2006. The principles were named for the Indonesian city where the conference was held.
Not surprisingly, those who spoke out against the Yogyakarta Principles– member states representing the African nations and the Arab League– were also those who spoke out against having the Independent Investigator for LGBT rights.
World Human Rights Day: UN Secretary-General Ba Ki-moon
The UN began to officially recognize LGBT rights when UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon spoke about defending the rights of people imprisoned for their sexual orientation during a Ford Foundation event in New York during Human Rights Day in 2010.
A year later, US State Secretary Hillary Clinton addressed the UN in Geneva and mentioned the “invisible minority” whose rights were in jeopardy. Clinton likewise declared that LGBT rights and human rights are not distinct.
Likewise, in April of 2011, several offices of the UN– the Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the UN Development Programme (UNDP), and the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS)– as well as the World Health Organization (WHO) came out with a brochure: “The United Nations Speaks Out: Tackling Discrimination on Grounds of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.”
From there, the ball started rolling with the OHCHR coming out with its first report on the human rights of LGBT persons within that year.
With the OHCHR report, Sec-Gen Ban challenged the Human Rights Council in 2012 and said, “This is a monumental tragedy for those affected– and a stain on our collective conscience. It is also a violation of international law. You, as members of the Human Rights Council, must respond.”
World Human Rights Day: The UN and the US
While the UN had made progress in convincing its member states to stop discrimination and criminalization based on homophobia and transphobia, the US was also working on its own end.
After the Supreme Court earlier ruled in favor of marriage equality, President Obama said in a statement during the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia this year: “Our nation is committed to the principle that all people should be treated fairly and with respect. Advancing this goal has long been a cornerstone of American diplomacy, and I am proud that my Administration has made advancing the human rights of LGBT individuals a specific focus of our engagement around the world.”
“All nations and all communities can, and must, do better. Fortunately, human rights champions and good citizens around the world continue to strive towards this goal every day by lifting up the simple truth that LGBT rights are human rights,” he said.
With that in mind, the 2016 World Human Rights Day is about calling on everyone to stand up for someone’s rights.
“Upholding human rights is in the interest of all. Respect for human rights advances well-being for every individual, stability for every society, and harmony for our interconnected world,” said UN chief Ban for this year’s Human Rights Day.
For more information about LGBT rights and human rights, check out the following videos below.