UN: Women of Diverse Sexualities and Gender Identities Central to Development

LBT Activists and Allies Call on Governments to Stop Using Rights as Bargaining Chips

(New York, March 21, 2014) Governments at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) ignored evidence of and regional support for key elements of sustainable development in its declaration adopted today, said a coalition of lesbian, bisexual women, trans* (LBT) and allied activists and organizations present at the United Nations in a statement released today. (Read the full statement by the coalition online.)

The Commission, a 45-member standing committee of the United Nations General Assembly which meets annually, has spent the past 2 weeks discussing development needs for women.  Despite a 20-year legacy of UN prohibition of discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation and increasingly gender identity, delegates gave in to pressure from a small number of vocal states and the Holy See, to render these violations invisible.

“We all know that sexual orientation and gender identity have been used disingenuously this week to undermine a number of issues” said Noelene Nabulivou, Diverse Voices and Action for Equality, Fiji, “There has been enormous pressure on governments to pretend development goals can be achieved without us. This is both counter-intuitive and counter-productive.”

Sixty-two organizations and several individual activists from across the world signed a strong call for action on the occasion, and said of the process: “We are tired of the willful ignorance, tepid support or overt bowing to geopolitical pressures that make simple recognition of our lives and communities impossible.”

The human rights of people targeted because of sexual orientation and gender identity or expression have long been recognized by UN entities and expert bodies as part of general human rights protections. However, some governments continue to create conditions that limit the ability for all people to enjoy these rights.

“When we are criminalized, when governments and communities seek to silence us, when we are treated as less than human, all of this affects our ability to provide for ourselves and our families,” said Josefina Valencia, Clóset de Sor Juana, Mexico. “This has a devastating effect not just on us, but on everyone in our communities.”

The Commission on the Status of Women deliberations this year are part of a broader United Nations process to define the key component of sustainable development, named the Post-2015 agenda. While regional input to this process has identified the need to address people of diverse sexualities and gender identities as beneficiaries of development, this understanding was subordinated to political bargaining during the CSW negotiations.

“Some countries, in particular from the global South, stood up for what everyone knows is right: the need to address violence, discrimination and marginalization in our communities,” said Nori Spauwen, COC Netherlands.  “So although others were silent, it’s important for all of us to see this support, and to feel the advances we are making in these spaces, even when our lives are not noted in print”.

Despite disappointments, LBT activists, organizations, and allies noted long term successful trends both in the global South and North.  They celebrated their strong presence and ability to speak up about the issues affecting women of diverse sexualities and gender identities. On March 20, Kenita Placide of United & Strong, an LGBT organization based in St. Lucia, delivered a powerful statement to the Commission on behalf of 76 organizations from across the world, calling for delegates to take a strong stance against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

“This is neither the beginning nor the end,” said Lalaine P. Viado, independent activist from the Philippines. “We are not going away, and we expect governments to step up.”

For further information:

Eugenia López Uribe, Executive Director, Balance, Mexico, email: Eugenia@redbalance.org, phone: +52 15 554 534 341

Nori Spauwen, International Advocacy Officer, COC Netherlands, email: nspauwen@coc.nl, phone: +31 611748008

Lalaine P. Viado, independent women’s rights activist, The Philippines, email: lalainepviado@gmail.com, Skype: lalaine_p_viado

Josefina Valencia, Clóset de Sor Juana AC, Mexico, email: closet.sorjuana@gmail.com, Skype: jaravato