JOINT PRESS STATEMENT
THE RIGHT TO FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION UNDER THREAT: 20 ARRESTED IN TANZANIA FOR ALLEGED HOMOSEXUALITY
20 September 2017
The Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, and Pan Africa International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Intersex Association (Pan Africa ILGA) strongly condemn the recent arrest of parents and NGO personnel at a training workshop on HIV prevention.
On Friday 15 September 2017, Zanzibari police, acting on the orders of the District Commissioner, arrested a group of twenty parents, local partners and staff of an implementing NGO for organising and attending a workshop on peer-to-peer parent HIV and AIDS prevention. The workshop was aimed at addressing stigma and discrimination in the family with regards to HIV and AIDS. According to a local NGO leader, the group was accused of “training people on homosexuality”, which is not a crime in any known law in operation in Tanzania.
While Section 150-154 and Section 158 of the Tanzanian Penal Code prohibits same-sex conduct, and makes it punishable with up to 14 years in jail, homosexuality, as such (and being a homosexual) is not a crime in Zanzibar.
All except two staff members of the implementing NGO have been released without being charged. The arrest followed by release is indicative of arbitrariness and abuse of power. The Centre for Human Rights and Pan Africa ILGA strongly condemn this action by Zanzibari police.
These arrests are part of a recent pattern in mainland Tanzania. In December 2016, a meeting organised by Open Society Initiatives for Eastern Africa on reproductive rights, was raided in Dar-es-Salaam with eight people detained and released without charges. Offices belonging to organisations working on LGBTI issues were also unlawfully raided and documents from these offices confiscated in Dar-es-Salaam in the same year.
The Constitutions of both Tanzania and Zanzibar, in Article 18 (in both cases), provide that everyone has the right to seek, receive, and impart information. Article 20 of both Constitutions further provides every person with the right to peacefully assemble, associate, and cooperate with other persons. Tanzania (which under international law has the power to ratify international treaties as the government of United Republic of Tanzania, including Zanzibar) is also party to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, which states in Article 9 and Article 10 that every person has the right to receive information, express themselves, and to disseminate information; and that every individual shall have the right to free association. African Commission Resolution 275, Resolution on Protection Against Violence and other Human Rights Violations against Persons on the basis of their real or imputed Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity, expressly condemns the arbitrary arrest of persons. It also calls on state parties to ensure that human rights defenders work in an enabling environment that is free of stigma, reprisals or criminal prosecution. The actions of the Tanzanian and Zanzibari government are thus in contravention of both the African Charter and the Constitution. This pattern of violation of the freedom of association is rife in the country.
Same-sex conduct may be illegal in Zanzibar and mainland Tanzania, but sexual orientation and gender identity minorities, or those perceived to be so, maintain the right of access to information and education on HIV and AIDS prevention and treatment. HIV and AIDS affects everyone, irrespective of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, and there should be no discriminatory treatment against whomever imparts or receives life-saving health information on HIV and AIDS. NGO workers have the right to impart knowledge on HIV and AIDS.
Earlier this year, the government banned many private health clinics from providing HIV/AIDS-related services, and in July 2016 banned the import and sale of sexual lubricants, citing that these promoted and encouraged same-sex sexual conduct.
Tanzania’s response to HIV/AIDS is guided by the Multi-Sectoral Strategic Framework for HIV and AIDS 2013-17, which recognises men who have sex with men (MSM), sex workers and transgender persons as key populations who are disproportionately affected and impacted by the epidemic. The national frameworks provide, amongst others, health services prioritising key populations in order to curb the spread of HIV/AIDS.
The Centre for Human Rights and Pan Africa ILGA strongly condemn this action by Zanzibari police. The Centre for Human Rights and Pan Africa ILGA are two African regional human rights organisations that work to eliminate stigma and discrimination based on a person’s perceived or real sexual orientation or gender identity and expression. We stand in solidarity with all work around HIV and AIDS that addresses stigma and discrimination as part of fighting a winning battle towards the total elimination of HIV and AIDS in Africa. We demand an Africa free from discrimination and violence against persons based on any real or imputed notion of their sexual orientation, gender identity or expression (SOGIE).
We are extremely concerned about the developing pattern of arrests on grounds of homosexuality which has occurred in Tanzania and in other countries on the continent. Over forty men were arrested in Nigeria in August for “engaging in homosexuality”. These arrests do not only impact the lives of the LGBTI community, but prevention and treatment efforts of HIV/AIDS in general.
The Centre for Human Rights and Pan Africa ILGA call on the governments of the United Republic of Tanzania and Zanzibar to:
- Unconditionally release the two NGO staff members who are still in police custody.
- Immediately stop the continued harassment of sexual minorities and those perceived to be so, their organisations, and partner organisations that support work around key populations and HIV/AIDS.
- Stop the harassment of NGO and private sector personnel working in the area of HIV prevention and treatment among key populations including MSM.
- Respect its Constitution and international human rights standards, especially the right to equality and non-discrimination.
We call on all African states and human rights organisations to protect and fulfill human rights without any distinction including on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, and for law enforcement agents to exercise due diligence in investigation and punishment of the perpetrators of human rights violations based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
Joint statement released by the Centre for Human Rights and Pan Africa ILGA.
For more information, please contact:
Professor Vitit Muntarbhorn, the UN’s Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI), resigned on the 8th of September in a letter sent to the President of the Human Rights Council.
The position of Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender was created and appointed by the UN’s Human Rights Council in June 2016. The Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is appointed by the UN Human Rights Council. The mandate holder assesses the implementation of existing international human rights instruments with regard to ways to overcome violence and discrimination against persons on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity, and to identify and address the root causes of violence and discrimination.
Applications for the position are now open and more information can be found here.
The Mandate of the Independent Expert:
- to assess the implementation of existing international human rights instruments with regard to ways to overcome violence and discrimination against persons on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity, while identifying both best practices and gaps;
- to raise awareness of violence and discrimination against persons on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity, and to identify and address the root causes of violence and discrimination;
- to engage in dialogue and to consult with States and other relevant stakeholders, including United Nations agencies, programmes and funds, regional human rights mechanisms, national human rights institutions, civil society organizations and academic institutions;
- to work in cooperation with States in order to foster the implementation of measures that contribute to the protection of all persons against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity;
- to address the multiple, intersecting and aggravated forms of violence and discrimination faced by persons on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity;
- to conduct, facilitate and support the provision of advisory services, technical assistance, capacity-building and international cooperation in support of national efforts to combat violence and discrimination against persons on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
In the discharge of the mandate, the Independent Expert:
a) transmits urgent appeals and letters of allegation to States with regard to cases of violence and discrimination against persons on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
b) undertakes fact-finding country visits.
Today the UNHRC took yet another positive move towards LGBT equality by adopting a resolution on ‘Protection Against Violence and Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity’. This long anticipated move comes after two other resolutions adopted by the Council in 2011 and 2014 respectively. The resolution, an obvious game changer, establishes the mandate of an Independent Expert on SOGI who is tasked with, inter alia; assessing implementation of existing international human rights law, identifying best practices and gaps, raising awareness of violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, engaging in dialogue and consultation with States and other stakeholders, and facilitating provision of advisory services, technical assistance, capacity-building and cooperation to help address violence and discrimination on these grounds.[For full statement of SOGI resolution please follow the link…]
United Nations Makes History on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
UN human rights body establishes an Independent Expert
(Geneva, June 30, 2016)
In a defining vote, the United Nations Human Rights Council adopted a resolution on “Protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation, and gender identity”, to mandate the appointment of an Independent Expert on the subject. It is a historic victory for the human rights of all persons who are at risk of discrimination and violence because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, 28 human rights groups said today. This resolution builds upon two previous resolutions, adopted by the Council in 2011 and 2014.
The Core Group of seven Latin American countries – Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico, Uruguay – and 41 additional countries jointly presented the text.
The resolution was adopted by a vote of 23 in favor, 18 against and 6 abstentions.
“This is truly momentous,” said Micah Grzywnowicz from the Swedish Federation for LGBTQ Rights, RFSL. “This is our opportunity to bring international attention to specific violations and challenges faced by transgender and gender non-conforming persons in all regions. It’s time for international community to take responsibility to ensure that persons at risk of violence and discrimination because of gender identity are not left behind.”
“It’s an historic resolution,” added Josefina Valencia from International LGBTI Association for Latin America and the Caribbean, ILGA LAC. “Latin America has played a very important role to build a common course for the advancement of our human rights. We are proud of the international solidarity and the commitment shown by States for equality.”
The positive vote responds to a joint campaign of a record 628 nongovernmental organizations from 151 countries calling on the Council to adopt the resolution and create the SOGI Independent Expert.
”It is important to note that around 70% of the organizations are from the global south,” said Yahia Zaidi of MantiQitna Network. “This is a powerful cross regional message of strength to the United Nations to protect the rights of LGBTI persons. The Independent Expert will be a focal point for all violations based on SOGI and hence help grassroots organizations to better utilize the otherwise complex labyrinth of the UN system.”
The Expert will be tasked with assessing implementation of existing international human rights law, identifying best practices and gaps, raising awareness of violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, engaging in dialogue and consultation with States and other stakeholders, and facilitating provision of advisory services, technical assistance, capacity-building and cooperation to help address violence and discrimination on these grounds.
“To have an Independent Expert can be a ‘game-changer’ in counter-acting violence which fuels the HIV epidemic in key populations and more specifically in LGBT communities,” said Alain Kra of Espace Confiance.
“It will ease the work of all human rights defenders and it is essential for our governments and people to have the knowledge on how to protect LGBT communities from any violence and discrimination they face,” added Joleen Mataele of the Tonga Leiti’s Association.
Although a number of hostile amendments seeking to introduce notions of cultural relativism were adopted into the text by vote, the core of the resolution affirming the universal nature of international human rights law stood firm.
We hope that this resolution will mark a turning point in the struggle to create a world free from violence and discrimination for all people regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity.
Results of the vote
Voting in favor of the resolution
Albania, Belgium, Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, France, Georgia, Germany, Latvia, Macedonia, Mexico, Mongolia, Netherlands, Panama, Paraguay, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Slovenia, Switzerland, UK, Venezuela, Viet Nam
Voting against the resolution
Algeria, Bangladesh, Burundi, China, Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Maldives, Morocco, Nigeria, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Togo, United Arab Emirates
Abstaining on the resolution
Botswana, Ghana, India, Namibia, Philippines, South Africa
- Access Chapter
- AIDES France
- Amnesty International
- ARC International / Arvind Narrain / firstname.lastname@example.org / +41 78 632 3605 (Switzerland)
- Clóset de Sor Juana AC
- Egale Canada Human Rights Trust
- Espacio de Mujeres Lesbianas Salvadoreñas por la Diversidad (ESMULES)
- Federatie van Nederlandse Verenigingen tot Integratie van Homoseksualiteit – COC Nederland / Alexander Hammelburg / +31622698765 / email@example.com(Netherlands)
- Foundation for SOGI Rights and Justice (FORSOGI), Thailand
- FRI, the Norwegian Organisation for Sexual and Gender Diversity
- GALANG Philippines
- Human Rights Law Centre
- Human Rights Watch / John Fisher / firstname.lastname@example.org / +41 79 508 3968 (Switzerland)
- Iranti-org / Jabu Periera / +27 82 957 5349 (South Africa)
- International Commission of Jurists
- ILGA LAC, Asociación Internacional de Lesbianas, Gays, Bisexuales, Trans e Intersexuales para América Latina y el Caribe. / Paul Caballero email@example.com / +54 91 123 974 909 (Argentina)
- International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) / André du Plessis / firstname.lastname@example.org / +41 79 678 1229 (Switzerland)
- Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO)
- LGBT Denmark – the National Organization for Gay Men, Lesbians, Bisexuals and Transgendered People
- MantiQitna Network / Yahia Zaidi /
- OutRight Action International / Jessica Stern / +1 917 355 3262 (USA)
- Pacific Sexual Diversity Network
- Pan Africa ILGA / Monica Tabengwa / email@example.com / +27 76 795 8245 (Botswana/South Africa)
- Proyecto Arcoiris, colectivo anticapitalista e independiente / +53 5384 9062 / firstname.lastname@example.org (Cuba)
- Samoa Faafafine Association
- Swedish Federation for LGBTQ Rights (RFSL) – Micah Grzywnowicz / email@example.com / +46 735 41 96 44 (Sweden)
- TLF Share Collective – Philippines
- Tonga Leitis Association
SOGI resolution 2016: Update and Action Alert –
The Latin American States leading on a SOGI resolution – Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Colombia and Brazil – have just announced their intention to present a resolution at the upcoming June session of the Human Rights Council to create a UN Independent Expert to bring greater attention to human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity. A cross-regional coalition of NGOs is working to support this historic initiative.
SUPPORT THIS CALL
Pan Africa ILGA, the African regional secretariat for ILGA, holds a membership base of more than 100 organizations and CBOs across the African region. With the gross human rights violations still perpetrated in more than 23 countries in Africa against persons of diverse sexual orientation and gender identities, an Independent Expert would greatly benefit us in bringing to light the human rights based violations around SOGIE.
PAI is acknowledges the diverse opinions around this matter and its board along with the World ILGA board are in full support of this resolution and urges all its members and non-members to sign the Call for Action.
We are asking you to join our efforts to create a SOGI protection mechanism. The proposal would build upon previous resolutions adopted by the Human Rights Council, including the 2011 resolution on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity presented by South Africa and the 2014 resolution presented by the Latin American core group. These previous resolutions mandated two reports by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, which documented serious violations in all regions of the world, including killings, torture, rape, arbitrary arrest, discrimination in access to health care, employment, housing, and education, bullying, denial of one’s self defined gender identity, and other abuses. The High Commissioner highlighted, however, serious protection gaps, and noted the need for a mechanism to bring more systematic attention to the issues.
While the past reports of the High Commissioner have been valuable one-off initiatives, NGOs have consistently underscored that human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity are systemic, and require systemic responses. In 2014, more than 500 NGOs from over 100 countries from Australia to Zimbabwe, from St Lucia to Samoa, from Uruguay to Uganda – expressed concern at SOGIE-related abuses and called on the Human Rights Council to adopt a resolution to ensure regular reporting, constructive dialogue and sustained, systematic attention to the breadth of human rights violations on these grounds.
Now it is time to translate that call into action, and urge the UN to put in place a monitoring mechanism to ensure sustained ongoing attention to human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
An Independent Expert could monitor and document human rights violations on these grounds, prepare annual reports on issues such as root causes, engage with States from around the world to build awareness of SOGI issues, identify good practices and encourage reforms, help ensure the issues are better integrated throughout the UN system, and work to support civil society and NGOs working on these issues. In addition, we are calling for the mechanism to be explicitly mandated to address multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination, to help open up conversations at the UN about a broader range of sexual rights and bodily autonomy issues, identify areas requiring increased attention, and pave the way for continued progress in these areas. Please find HERE a Q&A document with more information on what a UN Independent Expert could accomplish and why it is important.
For Background information on what a SOGI Independent Expert could achieve, see the below link
Q&A_creating a UN mechanism to address human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity
And finally to sign on the call for action see the below link and sign on !
“It is our duty, under the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to protect the rights of everyone, everywhere. … We need regular reporting to verify that violations are genuinely being addressed. I count on this Council and all people of conscience to make this happen. The time has come.”
– UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon discussing sexual orientation and gender identity in his address to the Human Rights Council, 2012
Why bring attention to human rights violations based on SOGI?
Around the world, millions of people face human rights violations because of their sexual orientation or gender identity (SOGI), including killings, torture, rape, criminal sanctions, violence, repression of freedom of expression and association, attacks and restrictions on human rights defenders, denial of one’s self-defined gender identity, anddiscrimination includingin health, education, housing and employment. Civil society organizations in all regions of the world have documented and reported on these violations for many decades and called on the United Nations, regional organizations and governments to meet their obligations and responsibilities to prevent and address these abuses. As a result of this evidence base, UN Special Procedures, the OHCHR, and the Secretary General have increasingly brought these violations to the Human Rights Council’s attention.
In response to this widespread pattern of abuses, 5 Latin American governments (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Uruguay) have pledged to present a resolution at the upcoming June 2016 session of the UN Human Rights Council, with a view to creating a UN Independent Expert to address violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
What is a UN Independent Expert?
The UN Human Rights Council regularly creates dedicated mechanisms to bring sustained attention to human rights violations on various grounds. These can take the form of a Special Rapporteur, Independent Expert or Working Group comprised of several experts. Collectively, these are known by the umbrella term “UN Special Procedures”.
Special Procedures have been called the “jewel in the crown” of the UN human rights system. Existing Special Procedures have been created on issues such as racism, violence against women, discrimination against women, persons with disabilities, freedom of religion, persons with albinism, people of African descent, rights of the child, Indigenous persons, and the rights of older persons.
Special Procedures monitor and document human rights violations, prepare reports on a broad variety of issues, raise awareness with governments, promote good practices and positive reforms, support the work of human rights defenders, develop the international human rights framework, and ensure a space for interactive dialogue with UN mechanisms, in which civil society organisations can participate. An introduction and overview of the system of Special Procedures is available on the UN website HERE.
What would an Independent Expert on SOGI contribute?
An Independent Expert or other special procedure would focus urgent,systematic and comprehensive attention to the breadth of violations committedon grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity.
An important number of existing Special Procedures mandates have increasingly drawn attention to and responded to abuses of the rights of LGBTI persons. However, there remains a protection gap on these issues within the United Nations system, which has been highlighted by the High Commissioner for Human Rights in his most recent report.
A dedicated mandate would contribute significantly to addressing such gaps, allowing more detailed exploration of the situation of specific populations (e.g: trans populations, bisexual persons, lesbian women, gay men, other persons who face human rights violations based on their actual or perceived SOGI), specific patterns of violations (eg: killings, sexual violence, and other forms of violence in different settings including within families and communities, in health settings, detention settings, discrimination in education, employment, housing, health) and intersectionalities between human rights violations based on SOGI and on other grounds, examine the root causes of such violations and encourage more effective responses by Governments, the UN and others, including through identifying good practices.
A dedicated mandate would be able to report regularly to the Human Rights Council, engage in constructive dialogue with States and other stakeholders, and bring greater clarity to the application of international human rights norms and standards in relation to SOGI. Collaboration with other mandate holders could consolidate the existing intersectional approach in a more systematic manner.
Is there support for such an initiative?
Almost all States participating in discussions have agreed that no one should face violence or discrimination for any reason.
Numerous joint statements, as well as the two HRC resolutions on SOGI, and votes on references to SOGI in the biennial GA resolutions on extrajudicial executions have shown growing cross-regional support for these issues. The 2014 SOGI resolution passed with a clear majority of the HRC membership and support from within all UN regional groups. Regional bodies have also adopted resolutions and initiatives on SOGI including the creation of a dedicated Rapporteur on the human rights of LGBTI persons in the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
Civil society organizations from all regions of the world have repeatedly called on the HRC to institutionalize attention to the issues at the UN, for instance, through the creation of a new mechanism. More than 500 NGOs from over 100 countries issued a joint statement in June 2014 expressing concern at systemic human rights violations based on SOGI, and calling on the HRC to adopt a resolution to ensure regular reporting, constructive dialogue and sustained, systematic attention to the breadth of human rights violations on these grounds.
ILGA (the World Federation of LGBTI organizations) has resolved to call for the HRC to establish a Special Procedure on SOGI, while supporting continued attention to multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination.
How could a SOGI mechanism contribute to an intersectional approach?
For some, diverse sexual orientations and gender identities are seen to threaten the existing social order. Violence is then used as a tool to enforce gender roles and binaries, resulting in horrific crimes against people who are perceived as transgressing norms around gender, sex and sexuality. Special Procedures have acknowledged that violations against LGBTI persons are rooted in the policing of such norms, and are compounded by multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination.
A SOGI mandate could address intersecting human rights concerns, and could contribute to the possibility of developing any initiative on related issues such as bodily autonomy and sexual rights when sufficient political support could be built, for example, through joint statements and/or OHCHR reports. Civil society will also continue to work on existing gaps in relation to sexual rights.
UN Special Procedures regularly issue joint statements, and a SOGI mandate-holder could encourage other Special Procedures to integrate the issues throughout their mandates, undertake initiatives jointly with Rapporteurs mandated to address topics such as violence against women, racism, health or cultural rights to explore root causes, intersectionality and protection gaps, initiate dialogue on a broad range of issues that currently receive little attention (eg the human rights of sex workers), and pave the way for more systematic attention to these issues in future.
Does a focus on SOGI detract attention from other issues?
Addressing human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity is an integral part of our shared commitment to combat all forms of violence and discrimination, including those based on race, religion, age, ability, gender, socio–economic status or other grounds, as well as promoting and protecting sexual and reproductive health and rights, the right to bodily autonomy and all other human rights.
The entire United Nations human rights system is founded on the basis that human rights are universal, interdependent and indivisible, while at the same time recognizing that specific patterns of human rights violations – whether they are thematic or concern specific groups – require specific responses. Dedicated focushas brought visibility to particular issues, such as the rights of women, combating racism, the rights of minorities, older persons, human rights defenders, persons with disabilities, migrants, people of African descent, persons with albinism and others. Focused mandates have also helped combat impunity, and encouraged the design and implementation of targeted responses, including to address multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination.
States and civil society have been working to advance SOGI issues in the international human rights system through a series of joint statements and resolutions for over a decade. Violations on these grounds continue in all regions of the world. The OHCHR has already produced two reports on this theme and has noted the lack of a dedicated international mechanism to address the human rights situation of LGBT and intersex persons. States have similarly noted the need to give “integrated and systematic” attention to the issues.
The time is ripe and there is momentum for the HRC to take the natural next step in systematizing attention to ongoing violations on these grounds through the creation of a specific mandate.
What can I do?
Please join us and many others in urging the UN to give systemic attention to SOGI-related human rights violations, by signing the joint civil statement HERE.
Including the Organization of American States, the Council of Europe, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the Asia-Pacific Forum on National Human Rights Institutions.
 ILGA is a worldwide federation of about 1,200 member organizations from 125 countries campaigning for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex rights since 1978. For more information see here. The decision was made on 24 April 2016 at the ILGA Board Meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa. ILGA’s Executive Board is composed of 17 members: two elected representatives from each of the six ILGA regions (Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America & the Caribbean, North America and Oceania), one representative from each of the organizations elected respectively as the Intersex, Women’s, and Trans secretariats and two Secretaries-General elected at ILGA’s World Conference. For more information see here.
 A/HRC/29/23, para.76
 Joint statement at HRC30, under Item 8, on behalf of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia & Uruguay