UNDP-GPA seminar on equality and non-discrimination held at the Uruguayan Parliament

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The Global LGBTI Human Rights Conference 2016, jointly hosted by the Dutch and Uruguayan governments, took place in Montevideo from 13 – 15 July. The Conference, which takes places annually since 2013, was attended by representatives of governments, multilateral organisations and civil society organisations.

The conference was preceded by a Seminar on Equality and Non-Discrimination based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity for Parliamentarians of Latin America and the Caribbean, organized jointly by the Global Parliamentarians for Action (GPA) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and held at the Uruguayan Parliament. The Seminar, attended by MPs from Aruba, Bolivia, Belize, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago and Uruguay, zoomed in on the role of national and regional human rights mechanisms and institutions in promoting equality and non-discrimination. Participants had a chance to participate in a moderated discussion on an effective collaboration between parliaments and civil society, as well as, examples of best practice from across the region. Case studies were presented by representatives of parliaments and civil society organisations from Belize, Trinidad and Tobago, Suriname and Uruguay, explaining social and legal contexts faced by the respective parliaments.

LGBTI Handbook for Parliamentarians

The Seminar marked a launch of a handbook for parliamentarians on “Advancing the Human Rights and Inclusion of LGBTI People”, prepared jointly by PGA and UNDP. Presented by Suki Beavers, inclusive political processes advisor at UNDP, the document provides MPs with key information on human rights and concrete actions to raise awareness on, scrutinize, and reform the legal frameworks to address the needs of LGBTI persons. The seminar discussed legislative reforms and the ways of adapting criminal codes to promote equality and non-discrimination of all gender identities, as well as strengthening parliamentary collaboration in this regards in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Action Document

During the seminar, participating MPs adopted the Action Document created with input from civil society, in which they committed to a number of legislative and political steps towards equal protection and inclusion of LGBTI individuals. The document contains actions in relation to combatting violence, stigma and discrimination against LGBTI people, and ensuring equal access to justice, education, housing, employment and health services for all citizens, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.

UN Human Rights Council Resolution on LGBTI

The Conference and Seminar took place shortly after the adoption by the UN Human Rights Council of a historic resolution on “Protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity,” on June 30, 2016, establishing an Independent Expert on the subject. The mandate of the Expert, appointed for a period of three years, will be to assess implementation of existing international human rights law, identify examples of best practice and implementation gaps, raise awareness of violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, engage in dialogue and consultation with states and other stakeholders, and facilitate provision of advisory services, technical assistance, capacity-building, and cooperation to help address violence and discrimination on these grounds.

LGBTI and Parliaments

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) persons around the world face multiple forms of discrimination and oftentimes cannot fully enjoy their universal human rights. Many fall vulnerable to a range of violations such as hate crimes, torture, poverty, social exclusion and inadequate access to healthcare and social services, which leads to shorter life expectancy and higher rates of HIV/AIDS occurrence. In 73 countries discrimination against LGBTI persons takes institutional forms, with laws penalising same-sex relationships with imprisonment and prosecution. In eight of them, they are classified as a death-penalty offence. Such criminalisation goes against the fundamental human rights to private and family life, and freedom from discrimination, guaranteed under international law. Moreover, countries which penalise same-sex relationships or otherwise fail to protect the human rights of LGBTI individuals are in breach of their obligation to protect the universal human rights regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

MPs have a crucial role to play in putting LGBTI rights on the political agenda.  Doing so, at least in some states, has become just that little bit easier in the face of the issue’s growing importance in the public eye. Recently, the Parliament of South Australia has passed an amendment to revise all legislation to ensure that laws do not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, or intersex status. In another Australian state, Queensland, new legislation will allow single people and same-sex couples to adopt children