UN Documents


On June 17, 2011, South Africa submitted a request to the United Nations Human Rights Council requesting the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to draft a report detailing the situation of LGBT citizens worldwide to follow up and implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action (1993).
The report, which came out in December 2011, documents violations of the rights of LGBT people, including hate crime, criminalization of homosexuality, and discrimination. The High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay called for the repeal of laws criminalizing homosexuality; equitable ages of consent; comprehensive laws against discrimination based on sexual orientation; prompt investigation and recording of hate crime incidents; and other measures to ensure the protection of LGBT rights.

Article 2 of this Convention gives non-discrimination rights to parents through their child; it also requires governments to ensure protection against discrimination. This treaty can be relevant in addressing sexual orientation discrimination of lesbian, gay or bisexual children and/or parents.

This treaty defined torture broadly enough as to include acts committed not only by government agents but also by individuals when the state has failed to investigate it. Sexual orientation and gender identity is included within the scope of this treaty, as it prohibits torture on any ground of discrimination. Torture is defined the Article 1 as : "any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, where such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity".

Focusing on women’s rights, this treaty can be of help in support of lesbian’s rights. In its articles 2, it prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender. Furthermore, in its General Recommendation n°28 the Committee for the CEDAW (equivalent of the HRC for the ICCPR) recognized that discrimination as to gender can be inextricably linked with other ground such as sexual orientation and gender identity.

The article 2 of the Covenants creates a State obligation to respect and ensure the enjoyment of all rights enshrined in the covenant without discrimination as to race, sex, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Its Article 26 sets out equality before the law of all individuals and prohibits discrimination on the ground of sex among other.
These two articles are particularly relevant for LGBTI Rights, as the Human Rights Council, the United Nations Body responsible for the implementation of the Covenant, held in the case Toonen vs. Australia that sex in these articles should be interpreted as including sexual orientation. This constituted a landmark decision for LGBTI Rights as the Covenant is a binding instruments and the implementation of the rights it enshrines is monitored by an international body.

The Article 2 of the Declaration is the first recognition of the universality of human rights “without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status”. Article 16 refers to marriage and family, but without mentioning unions of people of the same sex, or LGBTI rights.