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The right to sexuality incorporates the right to express one's sexuality and to be free from discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. Specifically, it relates to the human rights of people of diverse sexual orientations, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, and the protection of those rights, although it is equally applicable to heterosexuality. The right to sexuality and freedom from discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation is based on the universality of human rights and the inalienable nature of rights belonging to every person by virtue of being human.

No right to sexuality exists explicitly in international human rights law; rather, it is found in a number of international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

Definition

The concept of the right to sexuality is difficult to define, as it comprises various rights from within the framework of international human rights law.

Sexual orientation is defined in the Preambule to the Yogyakarta Principles as "each person’s capacity for profound emotional, affectional and sexual attraction to, and intimate and sexual relations with, individuals of a different gender or the same gender or more than one gender".[1]

Freedom from discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation is found in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

The UDHR provides for non-discrimination in Article 2, which states that:[2]

Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, 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. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.

Sexual orientation can be read into Article 2 as "other status" or alternatively as falling under "sex".

In the ICCPR, Article 2 sets out a similar provision for non-discrimination:

Each State Party to the present Covenant undertakes to respect and to ensure to all individuals within its territory and subject to its jurisdiction the rights recognized in the present Covenant, 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.

In Toonen v Australia the United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) found that the reference to "sex" in Article 2 of the ICCPR included sexual orientation, thereby making sexual orientation prohibited grounds of distinction in respect of the enjoyment of rights under the ICCPR.[3]

The right to be free from discrimination is the basis of the right to sexuality, but it is closely related to the exercise and protection of other fundamental human rights.

Background

Individuals of diverse sexual orientations have been discriminated against historically and continue to be a "vulnerable" group in society today. Forms of discrimination experienced by people of diverse sexual orientations include the denial of the right to life, the right to work and the right to privacy, non-recognition of personal and family relationships, interference with human dignity, interference with security of the person, violations of the right to be free from torture, discrimination in access to economic, social and cultural rights, including housing, health and education, and pressure to remain silent and invisible.[4]

67 countries maintain laws that make same-sex consensual sex between adults a criminal offence, and seven countries (or parts thereof) impose the death penalty for same-sex consensual sex. They are Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Mauritania, the twelve northern states of Nigeria, and the southern parts of Somalia.

The right to sexuality has only relatively recently become the subject of international concern, with the regulation of sexuality traditionally falling within the jurisdiction of the nation state.[5] Today numerous international non-governmental organisations and intergovernmental organisations are engaged in the protection of the rights of people of diverse sexual orientation as it is increasingly recognised that discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation is widespread and an unacceptable violation of human rights.

Acts of violence

Acts of violence against LGBT people are often especially vicious compared to other bias-motivated crimes[6] and include killings, kidnappings, beatings, rape, and psychological violence, including threats, coercion and arbitrary depravations of liberty.[7]

Examples of violent acts against people of diverse sexual orientation are too numerous to account here, and they occur in all parts of the world. A particularly distressing example is the sexual assault and murder of fifteen lesbians in Thailand in March 2012. In that example, two lesbian couples were killed by men who objected to their relationship and who were embarrassed when they were unable to convince the women into heterosexual relationships with themselves.[8]

In another disturbing case which took place in 2017 in a church located in Brazil, a 13-year-old lesbian girl fell victim to sexual abuse after confessing to her bishop her sexual orientation. The bishop then proceeded to anoint the girl with an oil under the pretext of “gay healing” to which the young girl was left traumatized and in need for phycological care.[9]    

Often acts of violence against people of diverse sexual orientation are perpetrated by the victim's own family. In a case in Zimbabwe, the multiple rape of a lesbian was organised by her own family in an attempt to "cure" her of homosexuality.[10]

In those cases, as in many other cases of violence against people of diverse sexual orientation, State law enforcement authorities are complicit in human rights abuses for failing to persecute violators of rights.

Breach of the right to privacy

Main article: Right to Privacy

The right to privacy is a protected freedom under the UDHR,[11] and the ICCPR[12] which reflects the "widespread, if not universal, human need to pursue certain activities within an intimate sphere, free of outside interference. The possibility to do so is fundamental to personhood."[13] Intimate relationships, whether between two people of the same sex or of different sexes, are among those activities that are subject to a right of privacy.

It has been successfully argued in a number of cases that criminalization of homosexual relationships is an interference with the right to privacy, including decisions in the European Court of Human Rights and the UNHRC.[14][15][3]

The freedom to decide on one's own consensual adult relationships, including the gender of that person, without the interference of the State is a fundamental human right. To prohibit the relationships of people of diverse sexual orientation is a breach of the right to sexuality and the right to privacy.

Freedom of expression, assembly and association

Main articles: Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Assembly

Every person, by virtue of their individual autonomy, is free to express themselves, assemble and join in association with others. Freedom of expression is a protected human right under Article 19 of the UDHR and Article 19 of the ICCPR, as is the right to freedom of assembly under Article 20 of the UDHR and Article 21 of the ICCPR.

LGBT people are discriminated against in respect of their ability to defend and promote their rights. Gay pride marches, peaceful demonstrations and other events promoting LGBT rights are often banned by State governments.[16]

In 2011 gay pride marches were banned in Serbia[17] and another march in Moscow was broken up by police, who arrested thirty leading gay rights activists.[18]

Yogyakarta principles

In 2005, twenty-nine experts undertook the drafting of the Yogyakarta Principles on the Application of International Human Rights Law in relation to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.[19] The document was intended to set out experiences of human rights violations against people of diverse sexual orientation and transgender people, the application of international human rights law to those experiences and the nature of obligations on States in respect of those experiences.[4]

The Principles can be broadly categorised into the following:

The Yogyakarta Principles is an instrument of soft law and is therefore not binding. But it does provide an important standard for States in their obligation to protect the rights of individuals of diverse sexual orientation.

The United Nations

Main article: Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity at the United Nations

On June 17, 2011 the United Nations Human Rights Council in a Resolution on Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, adopted by a vote of 23 in favour, 19 against, and 3 abstentions, requested the commission of a study to document discriminatory laws and acts of violence against people based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.[20]

The 2011 Resolution was intended to shed light on how international human rights could be used to prevent acts of violence and discrimination against people of diverse sexual orientation.

On 15 December 2011 the first Report on human rights of LGBT people was released by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.[21]

The Report made the following recommendations. In order to prevent such acts of violence occurring, United Nations Member States are recommended to:[22]

Further action is yet to be taken by the United Nations, although a proposed declaration on sexual orientation and gender identity was brought before the United Nations General Assembly in 2008. However, that declaration has not been officially adopted by the General Assembly and remains open for signatories.

See also

References

  1. ^ "Preambule – The Yogyakarta Principles". yogyakartaprinciples.org. 27 October 2016. Archived from the original on 28 May 2023. Retrieved 16 September 2023.
  2. ^ Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948, Article 2.
  3. ^ a b "Toonen v Australia" (PDF) (PDF). United Nations Human Rights Committee. 4 April 1992. CCPR/C/50/D/488/1992. Archived (PDF) from the original on 18 September 2023. Retrieved 16 September 2023.
  4. ^ a b O'Flaherty, Michael; Fisher, J. (1 January 2008). "Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and International Human Rights Law: Contextualising the Yogyakarta Principles". Human Rights Law Review. Oxford University Press (OUP). 8 (2): 207–248. doi:10.1093/hrlr/ngn009. ISSN 1461-7781. Reprinted in O'Flaherty, M.; Fisher, J. (4 July 2013). "Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and International Human Rights Law: Contextualising the Yogyakarta Principles". In Grodin, Michael; Tarantola, Daniel; Annas, George; Gruskin, Sofia (eds.). Health and Human Rights in a Changing World. Routledge. pp. 356–388. ISBN 978-1-136-68856-0. OCLC 848918181 – via Internet Archive.
  5. ^ "Sexuality and Human Rights" (PDF). International Council on Human Rights Policy (PDF). 2009. p. 21. Archived from the original (PDF) on 8 September 2009.
  6. ^ UN Human Rights Council 2011, p. 22.
  7. ^ UN Human Rights Council 2011, p. 20.
  8. ^ "LGBT Human Rights Advocates Charge Thai Police Ignore Fifteen Killings of Lesbians and Toms, Dismiss as "Love Gone Sour"". iglhrc.org (Press release). 15 May 2012. Archived from the original on 6 March 2013. Retrieved 17 September 2023.
  9. ^ "Bispo evangélico que estuprou adolescente é condenado a 20 anos de prisão". Pragmatismo Político (in Brazilian Portuguese). 18 September 2020. Retrieved 7 October 2023.
  10. ^ Coomaraswamy, Radhika (31 January 2002). "Report of the Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, Its Causes and Consequences, Radhika Coomaraswamy, submitted in accordance with Commission on Human Rights resolution 2001/49". United Nations Commission on Human Rights. p. 102. OCLC 50549496. E/CN.4/2002/83. Archived from the original on 12 May 2023. Retrieved 17 September 2023.
  11. ^ Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948, Article 12.
  12. ^ "International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights". United Nations Treaty Collection. 23 March 1976. Article 17. Archived from the original on 20 June 2023. Retrieved 17 September 2023.
  13. ^ Heinze, Eric (1995). "10.1 Aspects of the Right". Sexual Orientation: a Human Right. Dordrecht Boston: Kluwer Law International. pp. 172–173. ISBN 978-0-7923-3018-9. OCLC 1392112413 – via Internet Archive.
  14. ^ European Court of Human Rights (22 October 1981). "DUDGEON v. THE UNITED KINGDOM". HUDOC. 001-57473. Archived from the original on 17 September 2023. Retrieved 18 September 2023.
  15. ^ European Court of Human Rights (26 October 1988). "NORRIS v. IRELAND". HUDOC. 001-57547. Archived from the original on 17 September 2023. Retrieved 18 September 2023.
  16. ^ Diène, Doudou (27 March 2006). "Racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and all forms of discrimination: report: addendum". Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance. Geneva: UN Commission on Human Rights N. p. 18 sec. 72. OCLC 124514254. Archived from the original on 18 September 2023. Retrieved 17 September 2023.
  17. ^ "Serbia bans gay pride parade citing violence fears". BBC News. 30 September 2011. Archived from the original on 25 July 2022. Retrieved 17 September 2023.
  18. ^ Geen, Jessica (27 May 2011). "Moscow police will break up banned gay Pride march". PinkNews. Archived from the original on 4 February 2023. Retrieved 17 September 2023.
  19. ^ "Yogyakarta Principles plus 10". yogyakartaprinciples.org. 30 November 2017. Archived from the original on 22 July 2023. Retrieved 16 September 2023.
  20. ^ UN Human Rights Council Archived 2011-06-24 at the Wayback Machine, June 17, 2011; see also UN rights body hits out against violence based on sexual orientation Archived 19 February 2012 at the Wayback Machine, (2011) UN News Centre.
  21. ^ UN Human Rights Council 2011.
  22. ^ UN Human Rights Council 2011, p. 84.

Sources