Voices of LGBTI Defenders

26.06.2015

In recent years there has been an alarming global trend to restrict the work and activism of civil society in all regions of the world. Examples include barriers to access funding and registration for organisations; the arbitrary use and application of laws to restrict freedom of expression, association and assembly; as well as arrests, torture and killings of human rights defenders.

 

In recent years there has been an alarming global trend to restrict the work and activism of civil society in all regions of the world. Examples include barriers to access funding and registration for organisations; the arbitrary use and application of laws to restrict freedom of expression, association and assembly; as well as arrests, torture and killings of human rights defenders.

Within this context, human rights defenders who are themselves from, or represent, marginalised and vulnerable groups are at particular risk and require particular attention in order to understand their specific protection needs.

During a Human Rights Council side-event on 23 June organised by ARC International, CIVICUS, ILGA and ISHR, a dynamic set of panellists shared the challenges they and their colleagues face in conducting their work in relation to sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.

Panellists included:

  • Joshua Sehoole – from Iranti-org, a queer visual media organization based in South Africa
  • Kenita Placide – from United and Strong, an NGO working on the rights of LGBTI persons in St Lucia
  • Natasha Jimenez – from Mulabi, an NGO working on sexual and reproductive health and rights of lesbian, bisexual women, trans and intersex people in Costa Rica
  • Zhan Chiam – gender identity and gender expression officer of ILGA

Panellists referred to the limitations placed on registration of their organisations, including practical limitations imposed by governments in circumstances where no legislative restrictions exist. Lack of funding was consistently referred to by the panellists as a significant challenge for their respective organisations.

Panellists also expressed their concern about increasing incidences of violent attacks against transgender people. Joshua Sehoole commented that ‘our identities are criminalised’. Natasha Jiminez, built on this in referring to existing restrictive laws, such as those in the Caribbean, which in effect assist community members to feel justified in inflicting violence to ‘punish someone for doing something illegal’.

Joshua Sehoole further commented that ‘We monitor abuses and report them to the United Nations mechanisms. This assists to create visibility for the abuse and the situation of LGBTI people more generally. However, there is a distinct lack of implementation and protection against these abuses on the ground. Would like to see States taking more systematic and concrete action to address violence inflicted on LGBTI persons’.

Category:

Topic
  • Human rights defenders
  • LGBT rights
  • Reprisals and intimidation
  • United Nations
Mechanism
  • UN Human Rights Council