An important vote took place at the United Nations in New York on Monday 19 December 2016 on a proposed amendment to the UN resolution entitled ‘Report of the Human Rights Council’. This amendment sought to delay the work of the UN’s first Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, Mr Vitit Muntarbhorn.
The amendment was put forward by those countries opposed to this important role, which has as its focus protection of all people against violence and discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity.
Today’s result – which the UK lobbied hard to achieve - means that the attempt to block the work of the UN Independent Expert, whose mandate was established by a Human Rights Council resolution in June, was defeated.
Following the vote, Baroness Anelay said:
I am delighted that thanks to today’s vote the role of the UN Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity has been safeguarded; and I am proud that the UK took an active role in lobbying in support of his position which was properly established the UN Human Rights Council.
Mr Muntarbhorn’s mandate is truly groundbreaking and it is extremely good news that his important role has been safeguarded. The establishment of an Independent Expert sends a clear message that the rights of LGB&T people are a legitimate concern of the UN.
His work will shine a spotlight on the violence and discrimination experienced by many people across the world. It will also provide important recommendations to the international community on how to address these issues.
The UK recognises that sexual orientation and gender identity remain sensitive issues for many people, and we are committed to working with all UN Member States to share positive practices and learn from others’ experiences of tackling violence and discrimination, and to build wider support for the important work of the Independent Expert.
The UK is committed to promoting and protecting the rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGB&T) people. The FCO’s work in this area includes:
Tackling violence and discriminatory laws and practices: We urge those countries that continue to criminalise consensual same sex relations to take steps towards decriminalisation and the introduction of legislation that protects LGB&T people from all forms of discrimination. For example, after lobbying by the British High Commission, Mozambique revised its Penal Code in 2015 which led to consensual same-sex relations being decriminalised. In the first half of 2016, both the Seychelles and Nauru announced that they would decriminalise consensual same-sex relations, partly in response to international pressure.
Promoting the full and equal enjoyment of human rights: We use our embassies and high commissions to monitor and raise human rights concerns. As well as diplomatic lobbying, we encourage UK missions overseas to seek out appropriate opportunities to promote human rights and prevent discrimination., This year the FCO’s Magna Carta Fund for Human Rights and Democracy is providing approximately £900,000 in funding to projects promoting and protecting the rights of LGB&T people.
Promoting equality and providing services to British nationals overseas: In a number of countries around the world where marriage of couples of the same sex is not legal, British Embassies and Consulates perform marriages for couples of the same sex where one or both partners is a British national. We work with partner countries and through international organisations, including the UN, EU, OSCE, the Council of Europe and the Commonwealth, to promote inclusion. The UK is proud to be a member of the new Equal Rights Coalition, which brings together over 30 countries committed to working together to promote LGB&T equality globally.