DURING the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), the Third Committee adopted the resolution “Strengthening the role of the United Nations in the promotion of democratization and enhancing periodic and genuine elections,” which included an explicit reference to sexual orientation and gender identity. This is only the second UNGA resolution that explicitly mentions these two categories.
The Third Committee is one of six committees of the General Assembly. It deals with human rights, humanitarian affairs, and social issues. It has been a key body of the UN for recognizing the human rights of LGBT people. The resolution on elections is renewed every two years. This year the resolution focused on gender-based barriers to conducting free and fair elections. Paragraph 7 of the resolution recognizes limitations in access based on a number of characteristics, including sexual orientation and gender identity.
Specifically, Paragraph 7 calls on states “to take measures to eliminate laws, regulations and practices that discriminate, directly or indirectly, against citizens in their right to participate in public affairs, including based on race, color, ethnicity, national or social origin, sex, sexual orientation and gender identity, language, religion, political views or on the basis of disability [our italics].”
An amendment to exclude the reference to sexual orientation and gender identity was proposed by Nigeria on behalf of a group of countries, but the effort failed in a vote of 90 opposed, 58 in favor, and 13 abstaining. A separate amendment was also proposed to exclude a reference to women and girls in all their diversity; it also failed.
Commented Sahar Moazami, UN Program Officer at OutRight Action International: “Explicit inclusion of the fact that there are barriers to accessing free and fair elections based on sexual orientation and gender identity in the resolution adopted today is no small feat. It builds on progress in recognition of the human rights of lgbtiq people at the UN, and shows that the institution is looking at identity from a complex lens. The vulnerabilities and risks lgbtiq individuals face across the globe are diverse, ranging from violence and hate, to barriers accessing services such as healthcare, or, indeed, accessing free and fair elections.”
The resolution includes other references to diversity in all its forms. It was co-sponsored by 87 states, showing growing, cross-regional support for the resolution as a whole, including the explicit reference to sexual orientation and gender identity.
OutRight Action International works to eradicate the persecution and inequality of LGBTQ people worldwide. Headquartered in New York, OutRight has recognized consultative status at the UN.