By Samantha Singson
  NEW YORK, November 8, 2007 ( – At a meeting at UN headquarters this week, a coalition of NGOs and the governments of Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay hosted the New York launch of a document which seeks to advance homosexual rights at the national and international levels. Boris Dittrich, advocacy director for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender program at Human Rights Watch and moderator of the event stated that this document was the “Magna Carta for human rights in the areas of sexual orientation and gender identity.”

  Called the Yogyakarta Principles: the document lists human rights that already exist in binding international law such as the right to life and freedom from torture, and reinterprets each one to include homosexual rights. Based on the tenet of non-discrimination, the Principles assert that nations are legally bound to change their constitutions and penal codes to incorporate homosexual rights, including rights to same-sex unions and gay adoption. 

  According to the Principles, “Sexual orientation is understood to refer to each person’s capacity for profound emotional, affectional [sic] and sexual attraction to, and intimate and sexual relations with, individuals of a different gender or the same gender or more than one gender.” The document states that “gender identity is understood to refer to each person’s deeply felt internal and individual experience of gender, which may or may not correspond with the sex assigned at birth.”

  Panelist Mary Robinson, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and signatory to the Yogyakarta Principles, praised the document for addressing a “deficit in the human rights system” that does not adequately address discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, which she argues are “core human rights issues.”

  Though she was not present at the meeting, a letter from current UN High Commissioner on Human Rights Louise Arbour, a Canadian, was distributed in support of the Yogyakarta Principles. Arbour reiterates her office’s commitment to promoting and protecting sexual orientation and gender identity and states that “Excluding lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons from equal protection violates international human rights law as well as the common standards of humanity that define us all.”

  Pro-family UN experts note that not a single UN human rights treaty mentions sexual orientation and furthermore, UN member states have repeatedly rejected attempts by Brazil and the EU to pass resolutions promoting broad homosexual rights.

  The panelists strongly encouraged government delegations to use the Yogyakarta Principles throughout the UN system and as a guide for all future programs and work. Dittrich praised the government of the Netherlands for already using the Principles to help determine development aid. To help more countries follow the Netherlands example, the organizers announced that an activist guide on the Yogyakarta Principles would be published in the upcoming weeks.

  The event was organized by several prominent homosexual rights groups such as the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA) and Human Rights Watch. 


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