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Urgent action needed against exclusionary rhetoric and practices that endanger human rights – UN expert

NEW YORK (26 October 2021) – A steep rise in discrimination and harsh rhetoric have put people who do not conform to gender norms – lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersex and gender-diverse people – at increased risk of persecution and violence, a UN human rights expert told the General Assembly today.

"Exclusionary narratives have gained traction in public debate recently, and they must be actively countered by the community of States," said Victor Madrigal-Borloz, Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. "Such narratives are fundamentally against basic human rights principles such as freedom, self-determination, privacy and dignity."

He spoke as he presented a report on "Practices of Exclusion" that analyses backlash against the incorporation of gender frameworks in international human rights law, building on an earlier report that he presented to the Human Rights Council in June that concluded international human rights law robustly recognizes gender as a social construct and a driver of violence and discrimination.

Those who oppose protection of gender and gender identity under international human rights law evoke a global conspiracy and create an atmosphere of panic and moral concern that allows the perpetuation of violence and discrimination mainly against lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersex and gender-diverse individuals, he said.

"These narratives resonate with conservative platforms and – with solid funding and catchy slogans – have been distressingly successful in national election campaigns around the world," said Madrigal-Borloz. "Too many ultraconservative political leaders and religious groups are using their platforms to promote bigotry, stigma and intolerance by dehumanizing people on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression."

In trying to rouse their bases, these leaders deliberately confuse the biological reality of sex characteristics with the social construct of gender, he said.

"Sex characteristics are biological features and a physical reality," he said. "However, the roles, behaviours and forms of expression attributed to individuals based on them are constructs. Any person must be able to ignore, shatter or subvert them as an exercise of freedom."

Noting further that 26 October is Intersex Awareness Day, he called on countries to protect the human rights of intersex children by prohibiting unnecessary medical procedures too often used to forcibly modify their appearance or physical development according to standards for "normal" male and female bodies.

"We need urgent action from all countries to push back against anti-gender narratives and exclusionary practices," he said. "I urge you to choose the path of the law of inclusion, which captures and reflects the perfection of the human experience in all its diversity."


Mr. Víctor Madrigal-Borloz (Costa Rica) assumed the role of UN Independent Expert on Protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity on 1 January 2018. He is a senior visiting researcher at the Harvard Law School's Human Rights Program. He served as the Secretary-General of the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT). A member of the UN Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture, Mr Madrigal-Borloz was Rapporteur on Reprisals and oversaw a draft policy on the torture and ill-treatment of LGBTI persons. Prior to this, he led technical work on numerous cases, reports and testimonies as Head of Litigation and Head of the Registry at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and has also worked at the Danish Institute for Human Rights (Copenhagen, Denmark) and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (San José, Costa Rica).

The Independent Experts are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council's independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

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For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts, please contact Renato Rosario De Souza (renato.rosariodesouza@un.org) or Jeremy Laurence (+ 41 79 444 7578 / jeremy.laurence@un.org)

Follow news related to the UN's independent human rights experts on Twitter @UN_SPExperts

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