Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Armenia endorses historic UN statement against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity

*For more details - see Unzipped: Gay Armenia

Armenia was the last country in the South Caucasus to decriminalise gay male sex towards the very end of 2002. It now became the first country not only in the South Caucasus but in a broader region to sign up for the proposed French-sponsored and EU-backed UN statement against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

There are many current problems in Armenia with regards to human rights. In short, respect for human rights is in pretty poor and vulnerable state. However... praise when praise is due.

I do commend Armenian authorities for endorsing the UN statement. This is pretty unprecedented and historic occasion.

At last, Armenia became part of the world headlines for the very RIGHT reasons. Let’s hope this trend will continue, and we will witness changes not only on the level of international declarations but also local level implementations.

The presentation of the declaration is now expected to take place at the UN General Assembly between 15 and 20 December - not on 10 December as previously reported.

The list of supporting countries is growing but still well short of a majority [although it does not require voting].

It will be tabled by France with the backing of all 27 member states of the EU; plus non-EU European nations including Norway, Switzerland, Iceland, Ukraine, Andorra, Liechtenstein, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, Serbia, Ukraine, Armenia and Macedonia. Russia and Turkey are not signing.

The call for the decriminalisation of same-sex relationships also has the support of the Latin American states of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Mexico and Uruguay but not, notably, Columbia, Guyana or Venezuela.

Only three African nations – Gabon, Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau – are endorsing the declaration so far. South Africa has not signed up. No Caribbean nation has offered its support, not even Cuba.

Although New Zealand is committed to the declaration, Australia is not. Nor is the US. But Canada is a sponsor.

No country in the Middle East, apart from Israel, endorses the declaration, and in Asia only Japan has agreed to approve it. China and India are silent on where they stand.

I just received welcome news that Australia endorses the statement. Russia, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Turkey did not endorse it, as of now.

Russian gay right activists sent a letter to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs calling Russia to join the UN declaration. The letter to minister Sergei Lavrov says that “we would like to pay attention to the fact that natural allies of Russia, including Orthodox states such as Armenia and Serbia, but also Venezuela have already agreed to sign the declaration. As of today, more than 50 countries agreed to sign it”.

This is the first time that Armenia is brought as an example for championing gay rights on international level. For now, I feel proud that my country aligned itself with the more progressive segments of international community. I will feel even more proud if everything written in that declaration gets implemented too. It will take time, efforts. As friend of mine (internationally based Armenian gay rights activist) said to me today, “positive steps on an international level but the national level advocacy is lagging behind in Armenia”.

Veteran British gay rights activist Peter Tatchell calls this a “watershed for gay rights”: “It will be the first time in its history that the UN General Assembly has had before it a declaration in support of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) human rights.”

The statement deals with human rights abuses, directed against people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, including violence, criminal sanctions, torture, threats against human rights defenders and discrimination in accessing economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to health.


We have the honour to make this statement on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity on behalf of [...]

1 - We reaffirm the principle of universality of human rights, as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights whose 60th anniversary is celebrated this year, Article 1 of which proclaims that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”;

2 - We reaffirm that everyone is entitled to the enjoyment of human rights without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status, as set out in Article 2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 2 of the International Covenants on Civil and Political, Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, as well as in article 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;

3 - We reaffirm the principle of non-discrimination which requires that human rights apply equally to every human being regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity;

4 - We are deeply concerned by violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms based on sexual orientation or gender identity;

5 - We are also disturbed that violence, harassment, discrimination, exclusion, stigmatisation and prejudice are directed against persons in all countries in the world because of sexual orientation or gender identity, and that these practices undermine the integrity and dignity of those subjected to these abuses;

6 - We condemn the human rights violations based on sexual orientation or gender identity wherever they occur, in particular the use of the death penalty on this ground, extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, the practice of torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment, arbitrary arrest or detention and deprivation of economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to health;

7 - We recall the statement in 2006 before the Human Rights Council by fifty four countries requesting the President of the Council to provide an opportunity, at an appropriate future session of the Council, for discussing these violations;

8 - We commend the attention paid to these issues by special procedures of the Human Rights Council and treaty bodies and encourage them to continue to integrate consideration of human rights violations based on sexual orientation or gender identity within their relevant mandates;

9 - We welcome the adoption of Resolution AG/RES. 2435 (XXXVIII-O/08) on “Human Rights, Sexual Orientation, and Gender Identity” by the General Assembly of the Organization of American States during its 38th session in 3 June 2008;

10 - We call upon all States and relevant international human rights mechanisms to commit to promote and protect human rights of all persons, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity;

11 - We urge States to take all the necessary measures, in particular legislative or administrative, to ensure that sexual orientation or gender identity may under no circumstances be the basis for criminal penalties, in particular executions, arrests or detention.

12 - We urge States to ensure that human rights violations based on sexual orientation or gender identity are investigated and perpetrators held accountable and brought to justice;

13 - We urge States to ensure adequate protection of human rights defenders, and remove obstacles which prevent them from carrying out their work on issues of human rights and sexual orientation and gender identity.