Topic 1: Addressing the Rights of LGBTI+ Peoples
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGTBI+) persons have faced violence, discrimination, and persecution for many years. The issues faced by LGTBI+ persons can be divided, for the purposes of this paper, into two groups. First, institutionalized discrimination and persecution, for example, making homosexual acts illegal and punishable by law. Recent events in Uganda will be used as a case study in examining this group of violence. Second, social discrimination and persecution that, while not propagated by the government or judiciary, still affect LGTBI persons in broad or specific communities.
Institutionalized Discrimination Against LGTBI Persons
In 2006, a Swedish law student named Daniel Ottosson published a study on the legal status of homosexuality in 195 countries, finding that some form of homosexuality (either male/male, female/female, or both) was illegal in 70 countries. Offenses may be punishable by imprisonment, whippings, fines, or death. Once country recently in the news for their anti-gay legislation is Uganda, though the specific bill was later deemed unconstitutional by Ugandan courts and was therefore struck down.
Discrimination against LGTBI+ persons is not limited to the prosecution of their sexual acts. In many countries, LGTBI+ persons may find themselves unable to donate blood, facing additional challenges to adoption, or burdened by laws related to military service. While many positive steps have been made in recent years – notably the repeal of DADT (“Don’t Ask Don’t Tell) in the United States, a legislation which “prohibited any homosexual or bisexual person from disclosing his or her sexual orientation or from speaking about any homosexual relationships, including marriages or other familial attributes, while serving in the United States armed forces”. However, much still remains to be done in terms of combatting institutional discrimination against LGTBI+ persons.
Social Discrimination Independent of Governments or Courts
Even in countries where LGBT persons hold the legal rights to all aspects of their identity, they may still face discrimination from school systems, work environments, communities, or other groups. In your research, be sure to read through the resolution passed in November 2011 by the UN’s Human Rights Council. This resolution affirms that LGBT rights are human rights, but are explicitly stated as in other conventions (ex. Rights of the Child). While this is a positive step, remember: only 94 countries have signed this convention, 46 members did not sign, and 54 countries have signed a different resolution opposing LGBTI rights.
Other proposed LGBTI+ rights include the right to allowing of men who have sex with men to donate blood, government recognition of same-sex relationships, anti-bullying legislation and student non-discrimination laws to protect LGBTI+ children and/or students, anti-discrimination laws for employment and housing, hate crime laws providing enhanced criminal penalties for prejudice-motivated violence against LGBTI+ people, and more.
Things to Think About:
Excerpts from the 2008 statement in opposition to LGBT rights argue that the protection of LGBT rights “delves into matters which fall essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of states”. It is accepted practice that legal codes differ within countries, and these differences are protected by the sovereignty of individual states. If states feel that such legal protections do not represent their domestic values or the will of their citizens, should the international community have the right to interfere and impose protections for LGBTI+ persons? In countries with theocratic governments (no separation of religious doctrine and state), is it right to expect government to create laws which go against their religious views (as they are interpreted by lawmakers)?
Excerpts from the 2008 statement also read: “We [the signatories] note with concern the attempts to create ‘new rights’ or ‘new standards,’ by misinterpreting the Universal Declaration and international treaties to include such notions that were never articulated nor agreed by the general membership.” While many would argue that LGBTI+ rights are human rights, and have therefore already been agreed to by member countries of the United Nations, do the signatories have a point that the conception of human rights here is different from what they agreed to in the UNDHR?
Many view the persecution of LGTBI+ persons as a problem primary to the Global South, or developing or underdeveloped countries. However, the developed Global North also faces major issues. In what ways do the roles of the Global North and South differ? How can the Global North compel the Global South to adopt LGTBQ protections, when they still face their own problems at home?
RESILIENCE AMIDST ADVERSITY: Being gay and African in the new century, a report compiled by The Atlantic Philanthropies and the OTHER Foundation.
Topic 2: Addressing the Treatment of Ethnic Minorities
In 1992, the United Nations adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities. It includes a list of rights to which persons belonging to minorities are entitled, including the right to enjoy their own culture, to profess and practice their own religion and to use their own language. It also contains measures which States could implement to create an environment conducive to the enjoyment of such rights, for example, through encouraging public knowledge of the history, traditions, language and culture of minorities existing within their territories and enabling persons belonging to minorities to participate fully in the economic progress and development of their country. States are also asked to implement national policies and programmes with due regard for minority interests. The cornerstones of the Declaration are the principles of non-discrimination, effective participation and protection and promotion of identity.
Unfortunately, many minority groups around the world today are still under the threat of discimination and persecution. Examples include the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar as well as China’s Uyghurs population. However, this issue is a global phenomenon and developing and developed countries alike face this pressing matter.
As part of the declaration adopted in 1992, the UN has a mandate to respond to situations of minority injustice before things escalate into disasters such as the Rawandan genocide. The United Nations has the difficult task of not only dealing with these issues but also identifying and defining what exactly constitutes injustices against minorities and what approaches they should take to mitigate these problems.
Things to consider:
What is a minority group?
How are minority groups treated in your country?
What are examples of ways that the UN have addressed minority group concerns in the past?
What are universal issues that minority groups around the world face today?
What are ways that the United Nations can effectively protect the rights and interests of minority groups?
“Minority Voices Newsroom”
“People under threat world map”