Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) from around the world have welcomed a landmark statement on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity, delivered last Friday at the United Nations Human Rights Council by Norway on behalf of 54 States.

The statement condemns human rights violations directed against people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, commends the work of UN mechanisms and civil society in this area, calls on UN Special Procedures and treaty bodies to address these issues, and urges the Human Rights Council to pay due attention to human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity, including consideration at an upcoming session.

“This is the largest-ever statement delivered at the UN on sexual orientation issues, and the first ever to explicitly highlight human rights violations based on gender identity.” said John Fisher, co-director of human rights group ARC International, who pioneered the campaign.

“We are encouraged by the measurable increase in cross-regional support for sexual orientation and gender identity issues in recent years. The time has come to ensure that human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity receive the international scrutiny and condemnation they demand.”

Chris Sidoti, Director of the International Service for Human Rights, said: “Numerous Special Procedures have documented violations of the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons.

“These violations include use of the death penalty, torture, criminal sanctions, police harassment, violence, rape, beatings, disappearances, denials of freedom of expression, raids and closures of NGOs, and discrimination in education, employment, health and housing. Too often in the past, these human rights abuses have passed in silence. Now, the era of invisibility is over.”

Rosanna Flamer-Caldera, Co-Secretary General of the International Lesbian and Gay Association highlighted the fact that more than 460 NGOs from 69 different countries had joined together to commend Norway for its leadership and support the statement.

“Activists from around the world often work on issues of sexual orientation and gender identity at risk of their jobs, their freedom, even their lives. The Norwegian statement has united States and NGOs from around the world to send a clear message that human rights violations directed against our communities can no longer be ignored.”

Earlier this year, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour in a keynote speech to an International Conference on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights noted that “violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons is frequently unreported, undocumented and goes ultimately unpunished. … This shameful silence is the ultimate rejection of the fundamental principle of universality of rights. … Excluding LGBT individuals from these protections clearly violates international human rights law as well as the common standards of humanity that define us all.”