Panel on discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity
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Statement by A u s t r i a
Austria highly welcomes this historic panel discussion. Gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender persons have been suffering violence and discrimination for far too long. It is high time the Human Rights Council lives up to its mandate of protecting human rights everywhere for everyone to address their plight. We thank South Africa for instigating this panel and we commend the High Commissioner for her comprehensive study documenting discriminatory laws and practices and acts of violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.
Non-discrimination is a core principle of human rights. Its full realization, however, has often been an excruciatingly gradual process. When the Universal Declaration was adopted many countries still practiced slavery and women could not vote everywhere. We have come a long way, but the struggle for full gender equality and the fight against racism are still ongoing. Gays and lesbians are no different from women or racial minorities: There is no legal or other ground that justifies violence or discrimination against them. However, their struggle for equality and non-discrimination has in many ways been especially difficult. My own country, Austria, has decriminalized same-sex relations only in 1971. As recently as two years ago civil partnerships were introduced, granting same-sex couples legal recognition. These legal changes are both a prerequisite and a result of changing societal attitudes, yet there is still a lot to be done to successfully eradicate homophobia in our society. However, while attitudes towards homosexuality might be culturally sensitive, there is a clear obligation by states to protect individuals from violence and discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation. We call on all 76 states that still retain laws criminalizing people on that basis to repeal these laws. We especially call on those countries that apply the death penalty for consensual adult homosexual conduct to repeal their laws.
We hope that today’s discussion will be the beginning of a series of encounters to allow the Council to finally live up to its mandate to protect the rights of LGBT persons. The Council needs to remain seized of this issue. How can the Office of the High Commissioner as well as Special Procedures assist States in fighting violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity?
I thank you.