Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex rights in national human rights institutions (GSDRC Helpdesk Research Report 1098)

Abstract

Query

Please identify a selection of national human rights institutions, including human rights commissions and ombudspersons, that have addressed LGBTI rights, and the strategies they have used.

Key findings

  • NHRIs almost unanimously take a universal human rights stance which is validated and backed up by the UN. This institutional support allows NHRIs to criticise governments for failing to support certain human rights.
  • NHRIs often emphasise that LGBTI rights are contained within existing UN rights principles, particularly the rights to privacy, health, life, freedom from violence, non-discrimination and equality. This is used much more commonly than any strategy suggesting people of diverse sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) should be treated as a separate group.
  • Most NHRIs engage with government through annual or thematic reports which are presented to parliament or ministers. Often, LGBTI rights are included as a section of a general report.
  • Some NHRIs have successfully created coalitions with civil society organisations to advocate and lobby the government. Some have held consultations directly with members of the LGBTI community.
  • Many NHRIs engage with LGBTI rights through complaints lodged. This is a reactive rather than proactive strategy, and relies on potential complainants being aware they have recourse to the NHRI, feeling capable of lodging a complaint, confident that something will be done, and assured that they will not experience repercussions.
  • Other strategies used by NHRIs include legal support for LGBTI people bringing cases against the state; reporting back to the UN under the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) system ; conducting context surveys and publishing reports; advocating for LGBTI-sensitive facilities; and capacity and sensitivity training for public services personnel.
  • NHRIs approach LGBTI rights largely through legal mechanisms, particularly in Africa. Arguably, the NHRIs which have also been able to access and leverage civil society have had more success in creating change.
  • Finally, nearly all reports note that the lived experience for people of diverse SOGI is overwhelmingly negative and oppressive. Despite positive policies and the weight of international human rights norms, people’s day-to-day lives continue to be characterised by stigma, discrimination and fear.

Citation

Browne, E. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex rights in national human rights institutions (GSDRC Helpdesk Research Report 1098). Governance and Social Development Resource Centre, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK (2014) 12 pp.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex rights in national human rights institutions (GSDRC Helpdesk Research Report 1098)

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