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OAS Adopts Resolution to Protect Sexual Rights

States Condemn Violence Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

The General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) has unanimously adopted a resolution condemning human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity, taking a crucial step to end the silence around violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in the Americas, Human Rights Watch said today. Human Rights Watch called on OAS member governments to ensure that the resolution is implemented in their countries, and to continue their support for sexual rights internationally.

“This resolution is a bold first step toward ending violence and discrimination,” said Scott Long, director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights Program at Human Rights Watch. “For the resolution to have an impact, concrete changes in law and policy must follow.”

The OAS General Assembly on June 3, 2008, adopted the Brazil-sponsored “Resolution on Human Rights, Sexual Orientation, and Gender Identity” during its 38th session in Colombia, with support from 34 countries. The resolution takes note of the importance of the adoption of the “Yogyakarta Principles on the Application of International Human Rights Law in Relation to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity” and affirms the core principles of non-discrimination and universality in international law. States also agreed to hold a special meeting “to discuss the application of the principles and norms” of the Inter-American system on abuses based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

At least 10 OAS countries have state or national laws that protect all people regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity. Chile, Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina are discussing specific anti-discrimination laws at the national level that include these as protected categories.

More than 20 activists from Latin American LGBT organizations met with members of the OAS during the General Assembly to advocate for the resolution. They pointed to how harassment and violence against members and leaders of the LGBT community continue throughout the Americas. They also underscored their concern about impunity and inaction by authorities. The rights organizations highlighted the particular violence that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex boys, girls, and young people face and the need for specific protections for this group.

In a separate process, states in the region are negotiating the text of a proposed Inter-American Convention against Racism and All Forms of Discrimination and Intolerance, which includes sexual orientation and gender identity categories to be protected from discrimination.

“Sexual rights are human rights,” Long said. “It is critical that member states of the OAS continue to support protections against violence and discrimination in other international venues.”

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