You are on page 1of 10

JSS MODEL UNITED

NATIONS
2015

UNHRC

BACKGROUND
GUIDE
AGENDA
Advancing International Human
Rights Protection Against
Discrimination based on Sexual

Orientation and Gender


Identity
LETTER FROM THE EXECUTIVE BOARD
Dear Delegates,
We welcome you all to the United Nations Human Rights Council at
JSS Model United Nations Conference 2015. It is our honor and
privilege to serve as your Executive Board for the duration of the
conference. The agenda for the committee is Advancing
international
Human
Rights
Protection
Against
Discrimination based on Sexual Orientation and Gender
Identity.
Keeping in mind your busy schedules, we have compiled this study
guide to help you with your research for council. Bear in mind that
the study guide is in no way exhaustive and is only to provide you
with enough background information to establish a platform for you
to begin your research. We would highly recommend that you do a
good amount of research beyond what is covered in the study guide.
First timers and experienced delegates alike, please go through
standard MUN Rules of Procedure before coming to council. We will
spend a part of the first session explaining the same to you, but its
always better to have a fair idea of how council will function before
you step in on Day One. We will be following UNA-USA Rules of
Procedure in council.
Furthermore, please take in serious consideration the following
points regarding the type of documents that you might want to
produce in the committee so as to substantiate your stand.
Valid and Binding:
1. All reports published by the United Nations and its agencies.
2. Reports by Governments and its agencies. (With respect to
their country only.)

1.
2.
3.
4.
5.

Valid but not binding, in the order of precedence:


Reuters
Al Jazeera
Amnesty International
Human Rights Watch
Reporters without borders

Not Valid but can be used for reference purposes:

1. Any report published by a recognized news agency or NGO.

1.
2.
3.
4.

Not accepted under any condition:


Wikipedia
WikiLeaks
Blog Articles
The Background Guide itself

Please feel free to contact us, in case of any query. We would love to
help you in every way possible.

Till then,
Truly Yours,
The Executive Board

Committee History
Human rights are inalienable entitlements established not by law,
but by human birthright, and the history of human rights has been
shaped by all major world events and by the struggle for dignity,
freedom and equality everywhere. However, it was only with the
signing of the Charter of the United Nations (1945), the subsequent
establishment of the United Nations (UN) in the shadow of World
War II, and the call to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights,
where human rights finally achieved formal, universal recognition.
The UN has remained committed to promoting and encouraging
respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all
through charter-based and treaty-based mechanisms. Charterbased mechanisms derive from the provisions of the Charter, most
commonly as subsidiary bodies like the Human Rights Council.
Treaty-based mechanisms are the human rights covenants and
conventions, along with their respective treaty bodies, which take
the force of law and monitor the implementation of the provisions of
the treaties.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR, 1948), a treatybased mechanism, was adopted by the General Assembly as a
common standard of achievement for all peoples and countries to
pursue the protection and promotion of human rights. After decades
of standing alone, this cornerstone document was joined by the
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
(1976), and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
(1966) and its two Optional Protocols to comprise the International
Bill of Rights. It was not just these documents, which guided Human
rights in the UN system, but also the Commission on Human Rights,
which manifested as the main subsidiary organ of the United
Nations dealing with human rights.
The Commission on Human Rights
The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) was established by the
Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in early 1946 for the
promotion of human rights, as envisioned in Article 68 of the Charter
and was given the duty of revising and modifying the UDHR. The
Commission spent its first two decades following a decidedly more
absentee policy, operating primarily as a treaty-writing body, and it
was not until the late 1960s that it began publicly monitoring human
rights violations and taking interventionist action, developing a

tradition of adopting resolutions on issues in specific countries. A


body of 53 members, the CHR met once a year for six weeks in
Geneva to evaluate instances of human rights violations, spur
investigations, appoint experts to assist governments in restoring
full enjoyment of human rights, and submit recommendations,
proposals and reports to ECOSOC. The value of protecting and
promoting human rights continued to grow but the integrity of the
Commission itself received severe criticism for its politicization,
selective monitoring, and membership. For example, in the early
2000s, the unprecedented focus on the human rights violations by
Israel conjoined with the dismissive response to other clear human
rights crises, as well as the membership of countries known for
severe human rights violations contributed to the SecretaryGenerals recommendation in 2005 to dissolve the CHR in favor of
the Human Rights Council (HRC). The construction of this new
council was a progressive step towards a more impartial and
effective human rights body in the United Nations.
Mandate
Recognizing the need to preserve and build on the Commissions
achievements and to redress its shortcomings, the HRC was created
to ensure stronger system-wide coherence and preserve the value
of human life in larger freedom. The Council was charged with,
inter alia, assuming the roles and responsibilities of the Commission,
promoting the full implementation of human rights obligations,
responding to human rights emergencies, undertaking a universal
periodic review, and making recommendations to States and the
General Assembly (GA).
Governance, Structure and Membership
The HRC is a charter-based subsidiary body of the General Assembly
established by resolution 60/251 of 3 April 2006. It consists of fortyseven members elected directly and individually by secret ballot of
the GA for a membership based on equitable geographical
distribution. It convenes a minimum of three times a year, with a
total annual duration of no fewer than ten weeks. Aside from the
mandate and general structure of the Council, the majority of the
institutions features were left up to the Council to formulate in their
first years Institution-Building Process.
Functions and Powers
The functions and powers of the HRC were developed to allow it to
make an efficient and impartial impact on the status of human
rights. The aforementioned Special Procedures of the Council direct
the individual human rights experts and working groups to report
and advise on human rights situations from a thematic or country

specific perspective while remaining impartial, objective, and


independent of the UN. Actions of this body include: undertaking
country visits; gathering information and analysis in order to
contribute to the development of international human rights
standards; sending letters of allegation to States for human rights
violations; raising public awareness of abuses; and introducing
annual reports to the Council and the General Assembly. The
Universal Periodic Review process, established in HRC resolution 5/1,
is a mechanism aimed at improving civil, political, economic, social,
and cultural human rights situations in all Member States. Each
state must submit a national report for review every four years, and
forty-two States are reviewed each year by its national leadership,
the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights, and working
groups composed of the members of the HRC, and headed by the
Councils President. The outcome report is adopted by the Council
and lists the recommendations the state under review will have to
implement before the next review. The Complaint Procedure allows
for an examination of confidential complaints, which form a
consistent pattern of gross and reliably attested violations of human
rights and freedoms. Once the Council receives a consistent pattern
of

ADVANCING INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS TO


PROTECT AGAINST DISCRIMINATION BASED ON
SEXUAL ORIENTATION AND GENDER IDENTITY
INTRODUCTION
In all regions, people experience violence and discrimination
because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. In many
cases, even the perception of homosexuality or transgender identity
puts people at risk. Violations include but are not limited to
killings, rape and physical attacks, torture, arbitrary detention, the
denial of rights to assembly, expression and information, and
discrimination in employment, health and education. United Nations
mechanisms, including human rights treaty bodies and the special
procedures of the Human Rights Council, have documented such
violations for close to two decades. United Nations entities have
integrated issues of sexual orientation and gender identity into their
work, including the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner
for Human Rights (OHCHR), the United Nations Development
Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Childrens Fund (UNICEF),
the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
(UNESCO), the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for
Refugees (UNHCR), the International Labour Organization (ILO), the
World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Population
Fund (UNFPA) and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS
(UNAIDS).

A few observations about sexual orientation, gender identity, and


human rights, as reflected in the work of the UN human rights
system, are in order. First, references to sexual orientation and to
gender identity are increasingly common. Six of the eight principal
human rights treaty bodies regularly refer to sexual orientation and
gender identity. A majority of the thematic mandates also regularly
refer to issue concerning sexual orientation and gender identity.
Second, both the concluding observations of the treaty bodies when
reviewing States periodic reports and the reports of the special
procedures offer a clear picture of the range of violations faced by
lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. State-sponsored
expressions of homophobia range from the criminalization of samesex sexual activity to officially sanctioned discrimination in access to
jobs, health care, education, and housing. Transgender persons are
prevented from changing their gender on official documents. In
many countries, LGBT individuals simply do not have the same
protection and enjoyment of rights that are supposed to be
universally guaranteed. For example, they are denied permission to
form associations or organizations, they are prevented from holding
parades or demonstrations, and even their speech is censored.
Without the rights of freedom of association, assembly, and
expression, they are rendered invisible. Official discrimination, in
turn, signals to the wider public that LGBT people, or those
perceived as being nonconforming in their sexual orientation,
gender identity, or gender expression, are appropriate targets for
abuse. At the hands of non-state actors, LGBT individuals are
frequent victims of hate speech and hate violence. And because
police harassment and abuse is also common, victims often have
nowhere to turn for help.
Third, rights are interrelated. A single act or event can produce
multiple violations. A law that criminalizes same-sex sexual activity
not only runs counter to the rights to privacy and non-discrimination
contained in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,
it also drives vulnerable populations underground and prevents
them from accessing treatment, thus undermining their right to
health guaranteed in the International Covenant on Economic, Social
and Rights. Arrest and detention of same-sex couples solely on
grounds of their sexual orientation or private consensual sexual
activity, is not only in breach of the nondiscrimination guarantee, it
also breaches the guarantee on freedom from arbitrary detention.
Restrictions on freedom of expression and peaceful assembly impact
not only LGBT individuals and groups, but also the essential work of
human rights defenders.
1.Violence
A. Killings, rape and other acts of discriminatory violence

Homophobic and trans phobic violence has been recorded in all


regions. Such violence may be physical (including murder, beatings,
kidnappings, rape and sexual assault) or psychological (including
threats, coercion and arbitrary deprivations of liberty). These
attacks constitute a form of gender-based violence, driven by a
desire to punish those seen as defying gender norms. In addition to
street violence and other spontaneous attacks in public settings,
those perceived, as LGBT may be targets of more organized abuse,
including by religious extremists, paramilitary groups, neo- Nazis
and extreme nationalists. Young LGBT people and those of all ages
who are seen to be transgressing social norms are at risk of family
and community violence. Lesbians and transgender women are at
particular risk because of gender inequality and power relations
within families and wider society.
LGBT persons are also among the victims of so-called honor
killings, carried out against those seen by family or community
members to have brought shame or dishonor on a family, often for
transgressing gender norms or for sexual behavior, including actual
or assumed same-sex sexual activity. While women are generally
the targets of this sort of punishment, these attacks can be directed
at individuals of any sex.
The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs in the United States
of America reported 27 bias-motivated murders of LGBT persons in
2010, up from 22 in 2009. The Trans Murder Monitoring project,
which collects reports of murders of transgender persons in all
regions, lists 680 murders in 50 countries during the period from
2008 to 2011.
B. Torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman and degrading
treatment
The Special Rapporteur on torture has noted, members of sexual
minorities are disproportionately subjected to torture and other
forms of ill-treatment because they fail to conform to socially
constructed gender expectations. Indeed, discrimination on grounds
of sexual orientation or gender identity may often contribute to the
process of the dehumanization of the victim, which is often a
necessary condition for torture and ill treatment to take place. In
2010, the Special Rapporteur noted that, in detention facilities,
there was usually a strict hierarchy, and those at the bottom of the
hierarchy, such as gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender
persons, suffered double or triple discrimination.
C. Right of asylum for those persecuted because of sexual
orientation or gender identity

UNHCR estimates that at least 42 States have granted asylum to


individuals with a well-founded fear of persecution owing to sexual
orientation or gender identity, although the precise figure is unclear.
Some States grant asylum even without a clear policy in this regard,
while others do not track reasons for granting refugee status or
asylum. Even in countries that recognize these grounds for asylum,
practices and procedures often fall short of international standards.
Review of applications is sometimes arbitrary and inconsistent.
Officials may have little knowledge about or sensitivity towards
conditions facing LGBT people. Refugees are sometimes subjected
to violence and discrimination while in detention facilities and, when
resettled, may be housed within communities where they
experience additional sexuality and gender-related risks. Expulsion
of asylum seekers fleeing such persecution places them at risk of
violence, discrimination and criminalization. In some cases, they are
returned with instructions to be discreet, an approach criticized by
UNHCR.
2.Discriminatory laws
A. Laws criminalizing same-sex sexual relations between consenting
adults and other laws used to penalize individuals because of sexual
orientation or gender identity. Seventy-six countries retain laws that
are used to criminalize people on the basis of sexual orientation or
gender identity. Such laws, including so-called sodomy laws, are
often relics of colonial-era legislation. They typically prohibit either
certain types of sexual activity or any intimacy or sexual activity
between persons of the same sex. In some cases, the wording used
refers to vague and undefined concepts, such as crimes against the
order of nature or morality, or debauchery. What these laws
have in common is their use to harass and prosecute individuals
because of their actual or perceived sexuality or gender identity.
Penalties range from short- term to life imprisonment, and even the
death penalty.
3. Death penalty
In at least five countries the death penalty may be applied to those
found guilty of offences relating to consensual, adult homosexual
conduct. In addition to violating rights to life, privacy and nondiscrimination, application of the death penalty in these
circumstances violates article 6 of the International Covenant on
Civil and Political Rights, which provides that, in countries that have
not abolished the death penalty, a sentence of death may be
imposed only for the most serious crimes. The Commission on
Human Rights and the Human Rights Committee have confirmed
that use of the death penalty for nonviolent acts, including sexual
relations between consenting adults, constitutes a violation of
international human rights law.

4. Discriminatory practices

Discrimination in employment

Discrimination in health care

Discrimination in education

Restrictions on freedom of expression, association and


assembly

Discriminatory practices in the family and community

Denial of recognition of relationships and related access to


State and other benefits G. Gender recognition and related
issues