By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA –Eighty five countries across the globe issued a joint statement at the United Nations Human Rights Council urging states to end violence, criminal sanctions and related human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender.
The Joint Statement was delivered by Colombia on March 22 during the general debate on the follow-up and implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action .
“The Joint Statement supports what UN human rights bodies have repeatedly expressed: that no one should face rights violations because of their sexual orientation and gender identity. Since the UN Human Rights Committee’s landmark decision in 1994, affirming that sexual orientation is a protected ground against discrimination, United Nations experts have repeatedly acted against abuses that target LGBT people, including killings, torture, rape, violence, disappearances, and discrimination in many areas of life. UN treaty bodies have called on states to end discrimination in law and policy. The Human Rights Committee monitors State Parties’ compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,” various groups said in a statement.
Being gay or lesbian is not accepted in many countries. Though they are tolerated, discrimination and violence against LGBTs is still widespread. Muslim religion does not recognize the existence of LGBTs in their communities. In Islamic countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran Islamic Republic, homosexual relations are a crime and faces death punishment. In Egypt, openly gay men have been prosecuted under the general public mortality laws just like what happened to Cairo 52 who were arrested on May 11, 2001 while partying in the floating gay nightclub called the Queen Boat.
Last February, 127 gays were arrested in Bahrain while in a reception of an alleged same-sex wedding. Progay, an alliance of progressive Filipino LGBTs said Filipino workers who entertain in private parties for fun or income are also arrested. The group expressed concern over the increased cruelty treatment to gay prisoners.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navanethem Pillay said during the 16th Session of the Human Rights Council, “We are not trying to create new or special rights. We are simply trying to address the challenges that prevent millions of people from enjoying the same human rights as their fellow human beings just because they happen to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.”
Lawyer Clara Rita A. Padilla, executive director of Engender Rights, said the joint statement was supported by predominantly Catholic countries such as Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, France, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Mexico, Paraguay, Poland, Portugal, Rwanda, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Timor-Leste, Uruguay, and Venezuela.
Padilla pointed out that even the Holy See spoke out against violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation through its intervention saying, “A state should never punish a person, or deprive a person of the enjoyment of any human right, based just on the person’s feelings and thoughts, including sexual thoughts and feelings.” In December 2008, the Holy See publicly urged states “to do away with criminal penalties” against homosexuals and again in December 2009 and its statement before the UN stating, “The Holy See also opposes all forms of violence and unjust discrimination against homosexual persons, including discriminatory penal legislation which undermines the inherent dignity of the human person.”
Philippines Not a Signatory
The Philippines, however, was not among the 85 countries that signed the joint statement.
“It is a dangerous precedent for the Philippine government not to express support for such UN statements denouncing human rights violations based on one’s sexual orientation and gender identity. The Philippines should uphold universal human rights where all rights apply to everyone including if one is lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. In this important statement, the Philippine government failed to stand up for the rights of LGBTs not just in the Philippines but around the world,” Padilla said.
Padilla added that the Philippines did not also support the Dec. 22, 2010 United Nations General Assembly resolution which included protection for LGBT people from extrajudicial executions (EJE) and other unlawful killing based on sexual orientation.
Padilla said that in the past years, there have been numerous reports of gay men being murdered and transgender people being beaten up and harassed without clear investigations and active prosecution being conducted leading to the perpetuation of abuses with impunity. “The Philippines must perform its obligation to prevent, investigate and prosecute human rights abuses including the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.”