Global civil society alliance, CIVICUS urges the South African government to reject attempts at the UN to block the appointment of the first-ever independent expert on sexual orientation and gender identity. A vote is due today at the UN General Assembly in New York to overturn the appointment of the expert which was mandated by the Geneva based UN Human Rights Council in June this year following a resolution.  

The current situation has arisen out of a move by the 54 members of the Africa Group to suspend the September 2016 appointment of Thai international lawyer, Professor Vitit Muntarbhorn as the first UN Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The Independent Expert, who began his work on 1 November, is responsible for monitoring and reporting on implementation of international human rights standards to overcome violence and discrimination against LGBTI persons.

“The creation of the mandate of the Independent Expert reflects the sustained and concerted efforts of a broad coalition of civil society stakeholders, UN bodies and states against violence and discrimination against the LGBTI community,” said Mandeep Tiwana Head of Policy and Research for CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance. “We hope South Africa will stand firm on its constitutional commitment against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.”

In a global climate of continued prejudice and hostility against the LGBTI community, a vote to suspend the work of the Independent Expert would undermine the development of crucial international mechanisms to ensure that LGBTI individuals and groups subject to discrimination, harassment and attacks at home access have access to necessary protections and scrutiny. According to global civil society group the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA), over 70 countries maintain laws that criminalise same sex relations.

CIVICUS urges South Africa to take a principled position in line with its constitutional values by (i) voting against the resolution to defer the appointment of an Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and (ii) by engaging the states opposed to the expert’s mandate on the need to uphold not undermine the international human rights framework.  

Note to editors

In June 2016, the UN Human Rights Council, the world’s premier human rights body adopted Resolution 32/2 establishing the mandate of the Independent Expert. The resolution, presented by the governments of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico and Uruguay, was approved by the 47 member UN Human Rights Council. The resolution expands and elaborates on two prior resolutions including in 2011, led by South Africa, and in 2014 led by Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Uruguay to counter and violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.




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