Human Rights Council must continue to address violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity


The UN Human Rights Council must build on its mandate to uphold universal human rights and combat violence and discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity, write the Ambassadors of Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Uruguay.

By Regina Maria Cordeiro Dunlop, Permanent Representative of Brazil, Marta Maurás, Permanent Representative of Chile, Juan José Quintana, Permanent Representative of Colombia and Laura Dupuy, Permanent Representative of Uruguay

In 2011 the Human Rights Council adopted for the first time ever a resolution by any international body on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity.[1] As instructed, the Office of the High Commissioner produced a report on the subject in November 2011 which was submitted for consideration by States and other stakeholders.[2] Three years later, based on increasing evidence of violence and stigma, Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Uruguay felt that it was high time for the Council to take up the subject again and proposed a new resolution, building on that of 2011, focusing on the production of a fresh report on the subject by the OHCHR to gather best practices and show the way for progress.

Several rounds of open and all-encompassing consultations were conducted by the core group. Very early in the process it became clear that several misperceptions were at play. Concerted efforts were made to dispel them and ensure that the text was oriented at the promotion and protection of universal human rights and in particular the fight against violence and discrimination due to sexual orientation and gender identity. Our proposal, in a nutshell, was not to create new rights but to promote human rights for all, based on the premise that under existing International Human Rights Law, LGTBI individuals enjoy the same rights –no less and no more– than any other human being. Finally, there was the notion that our initiative could polarize the Human Rights Council while we maintained that to keep silent on this matter would damage the credibility of the Council itself and would continue the suffering of many around the world.

The consultations revealed that there were concerns for many countries that could be attended to without affecting the essence of the proposal. With a true open and constructive spirit, various changes addressed to meet those concerns were introduced. Agreed language was imported from the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action which referred to the universality of human rights, bearing in mind the significance of national and regional specificities. Another change was the inclusion of a reference to “existing international human rights law and standards” designed to dispel doubts concerning alleged attempts to expand the applicable scope of the normative framework. Aware that some States were not ready to embrace periodic reporting on the issue, the original clause which requested regular biennial reports was modified. A positive spin, however, was introduced by stating that the forthcoming report focuses on existing good practices that could be replicated or adapted by other countries and societies.

By this time, a significant number of countries had approached us to voice active support for the draft. We therefore decided to bring together an “enlarged core group” that on the eve of the vote included as many as 25 States from all regions, 12 of which were members of the Council. We were proud to realize that the draft had become an authentically cross-regional initiative demonstrated by the significant diversity of its 52 co-sponsors. In addition, NGOs from all over the world joined in and helped by maintaining a flow of information and analysis alive in the media and with local communities and supporting the initiative in national and international circles.

Res.L27Rev1 was one of the last to be considered the final afternoon of the 27th session of the Council. Tension was high and the outcome uncertain. The four delegations presenting the initiative took the floor one after the other, in a well-choreographed total of 8 minutes, to introduce the draft Resolution and explain specific aspects of it and the motivations behind our initiative. The seven proposed amendments, clearly aimed at changing the nature of the text, were discussed by supporters and opponents and voted upon one by one. None of them were approved. The unmodified text of the draft Resolution was then voted and adopted by a majority of 25 votes in favour, 14 against and 7 abstentions. Noticeably, the 2011 resolution was approved by 23 votes in favour, 19 against and 3 abstentions.

While there may be many substantive issues related to this issue that undoubtedly will be discussed in the future by the Council, it is clear that a majority of Member States are ready to continue finding ways to protect people who are suffering discrimination, stigma and violence globally because of their sexual orientation and gender identity.

What comes next? The Office of the High Commissioner will produce a second report addressing concrete experiences and lessons learned which will be considered by the Council at its 29thsession, in June 2015.

We firmly believe that the last operative clause of the Resolution may well turn out to be crucial. It assures that the Council remains seized of the question of fighting against violence and discrimination for reasons of sexual orientation and gender identity thus fulfilling its principal mandate of protecting the human rights of all individuals. We are convinced that, as was stated in the plenary, this is a serious problem that needs to be addressed by all our societies. We are convinced that the Human Rights Council cannot and should not close its eyes to it and will not fail people who continue to suffer from violence and discrimination due to its sexual orientation or gender identity.

More importantly, it was demonstrated that beyond our differences, the Council can open spaces, hold a constructive dialogue and build bridges that allow us to attain more equal and inclusive societies.


[1]A/HRC/RES/17/19 Resolution on Human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity

[2] A/HRC/19/41 Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on Discriminatory laws and practices and acts of violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity


  • LGBT rights
  • Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)
  • UN Human Rights Council
  • Brazil
  • Chile
  • Colombia
  • Uruguay