The 32nd session of the UN Human Rights Council took place from the 13th of June to the 1st of July 2016. Here is a recap of sexual rights related resolutions, panels and statements.
The 32nd session of the UN Human Rights Council took place from the 13th of June to the 1st of July 2016.
The HRC32 Recap provides information on some of the key sexual rights related:
- Panels and Discussions
- Oral Statements
all of which the Sexual Rights Initiative (SRI) was engaged with during the session.
Sexual Rights-related Resolutions
Accelerating efforts to eliminate violence against women: Preventing and responding to violence against women and girls, including indigenous women and girls A/HRC/32/L.28
The annual resolution led by Canada focused on Indigenous women this year and sought to renew the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences.
While the resolution lacked specificity in relation to the context in which Indigenous women and girls experience violence and their exposure to different forms of violence, the negative impact of colonialism and access to culturally acceptable services, the resolution did make advances in other areas. For the first time in UN history, comprehensive sexuality education is referenced without being qualified by a footnote. The resolution also references intimate partner violence and women human rights defenders as well as sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights, emergency contraception, prevention of adolescent pregnancy, safe abortion where permitted by national law, and women’s rights to have control over all matters related to their sexuality.
The resolution was adopted by consensus, however, Russia introduced 11 amendments (7 of which were withdrawn), to remove references to the Security Council, intimate partner violence, human rights defenders and comprehensive sexuality education. All amendments were defeated. Reservations were noted by Paraguay, Saudi Arabia (on behalf of the Gulf Cooperation Council), Togo and China.
Removal of reference to Security Council
YES 12 / NO 22 / ABSTAIN 13
Removal of reference to Intimate Partner Violence
YES 15 / NO 22 / 9 ABSTAIN
Removal of reference to Human Rights Defenders
YES 14 / NO 23 / ABSTAIN 10
Removal of reference to Comprehensive Sexuality Education
YES 10 / NO 24 / ABSTAIN 12
Discrimination Against Women in Law and Practice A/HRC/32/L.7
The annual resolution led by Colombia and Mexico focused on discrimination against women with regard to the right to health and safety, the theme of the most recent report of the Working Group on Discrimination Against Women in Law and Practice. The main ask of the resolution was for the extension of the mandate of the Working Group on Discrimination Against Women for a further three years.
The resolution contains strong language on sexual and reproductive health and rights including repealing discriminatory laws such as third party authorization for health services; eliminating legal, administrative, financial and social barriers that hinder women’s right to health; reaffirming women’s rights to bodily autonomy and to have control over all matters related to their sexuality; recognizing that women’s health care is often deficient in relation to privacy and confidentiality and informed choice; and calls upon States to promote a human rights based approach to women’s health.
The resolution was adopted by consensus, however, Russia introduced three amendments to remove references to human rights defenders, the Security Council and a human rights based approach. All amendments were defeated. In addition, reservations were noted by Paraguay, Ecuador, El Savador, Russia, Saudi Arabia (on behalf of the Gulf Cooperation Council) and China.
PP4 Removal of reference to the Security Council
YES 16 / NO 20 / ABSTAIN 11
OP7 Removal of Human Rights Based Approach
YES 16 / NO 21 / ABSTAIN 9
OP18 Removal of Human Rights Defenders
YES 14 / NO 23 / ABSTAIN 9
Elimination of Female Genital Mutilation A/HRC/32/L.31/Rev.1
Led by South Africa on behalf of the Africa Group, the goal of the resolution is to intensify efforts to eliminate female genital mutilation (FGM).
The resolution was adopted by consensus. The resolution recalled FGM as a discriminatory practice and reaffirmed that the practice constitutes a serious threat to women and girls’ health. FGM is noted as a human rights violation and abuse of the rights of women and girls and expressed concern over the increasing medicalization of FGM. The resolution highlights that FGM has no relevant religious or cultural basis. There is also a consistent emphasis throughout the text of including men and boys in the process of eliminating FGM.
States are encouraged “to develop, support and promote education programmes, as appropriate including on sexual and reproductive health, that clearly challenge the negative stereotypes.”
Protection against violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity A/HRC/32/L.2/Rev.1
Presented by Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Colombia, the resolution establishes a new Independent Expert to assess the status of implementation of international human rights law to overcome violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, research and report to the Human Rights Council on the root causes of violence and discrimination on this basis and to engage with States and other stakeholders on this issue.
Saudi Arabia put forward a No Action motion on the whole resolution which was defeated. Russia and Pakistan (on behalf of the OIC except for Albania) put forward 11 amendments to essentially change the whole focus of the resolution and remove reference to SOGI. 4 amendments were defeated and 7 were adopted including troubling language on sovereignty, preservation of cultural values and morals, and rejection of interference by the human rights system on social matters including private individual conduct and national level “sensitivities”. Further voting was called on individual paragraphs which were defeated.
The resolution was adopted by a vote of 23 in favour, 18 against and 6 abstentions.
Addressing the impact of multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination and violence in the context of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance on the full enjoyment of all human rights by women and girls A/HRC/32/L.28
The core group for this resolution consisted of Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Paraguay, and Uruguay. The resolution was adopted by consensus.
The resolution calls for awareness of the multiple factors that might make women and girls more vulnerable to racial discrimination. Gender was removed from the title and discrimination in the context of gender is not mentioned, although there is mention of the need to integrate and mainstream a gender perspective into relevant policies and comprehensive gender-responsive, multisectorial policies and programmes.
The resolution calls for a panel to share practices to combat multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination and violence experienced by women which will take place during HRC 36 (Sept 2017). A summary report of the panel will be made by OHCHR.
Civil Society Space A/HRC/32/L.29
This annual resolution has a core group comprising of Chile, Ireland, Japan, Sierra Leone, and Tunisia. The resolution is based on the UN High Commissioner’s report on civil society space and highlights the important role civil society plays in contributing to peace and security, human rights and sustainable development.
The resolution also includes a number of positive measures on promoting and protecting civic space and requests the OHCHR to develop a report on the participation of civil society across the UN and regional and international organizations.
In response to 15 hostile amendments (3 withdrawn), SRI joined over 240 civil society organizations calling on States to adopt a strong resolution. All amendments were defeated. Historically adopted by consensus, a vote on the draft resolution was called by Russia and China.
Protection of the family: the role of the family in supporting the protection and promotion of human rights of persons with disabilities A/HRC/32/L.35
Presented by Bangladesh, Belarus, China, Cote d’Ivoire, Egypt, El Salvador, Mauritania, Morocco, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Uganda, this resolution is part of a regressive agenda that seeks to elevate the status of ‘the family” within international law at the expense of the human rights of individuals. The text does not recognize diversity of families, that families are often the site of oppression and violence for people with disabilities of all ages, particularly as it relates to sexual and reproductive rights. The resolution calls for a one-day intersessional seminar on the on the role of the family in supporting the protection and promotion of the rights of persons with disabilities, and to discuss challenges and best practices in this regard.
Three amendments were put forward by the UK and one amendment by Switzerland and Norway to recognize that various forms of the family exist and the rights of individual family members. All amendments were defeated.
The resolution was adopted by a vote of 32 in favour, 12 against and 3 abstentions.
Inclusion of Various forms of the family
YES 16 / NO 25 / ABSTAIN 4
Change family to families and replace persons by their members
YES 13 / NO 27 / ABSTAIN 5
Supporting members of the family
YES 14 / NO 27 / ABSTAIN 4
Change title to Protection of the family: the role of families in supporting the protection and promotion of the human rights of their members with disabilities
YES 14 / NO 27 / ABSTAIN 4
The right to a nationality: Women’s Equal Nationality Rights in Law and in Practice A/HRC/32/L.12
The core group consisted of Algeria, Australia, Botswana, Colombia, Mexico, Slovakia, Turkey, United States of America.
The resolution requests the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, in coordination with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees: to organize a half-day expert workshop to showcase best practices to promote women’s equal nationality rights in law and in practice.
The resolution was adopted by consensus without a vote.
Realizing the equal enjoyment of the right to education by every girl A/HRC32/L.30
The United Arab Emirates are the main sponsor of this resolution which focuses on ensuring that girls are able to complete a full course of primary and secondary school education and have equal access to all levels of education and quality early childhood development, care and pre-primary education.
The resolution was passed without a vote. The resolution urges states to increase efforts by removing obstacles that impede the right to education by every girl: including FGM, gender stereotypes, child early and forced marriage, and early pregnancy.
The need for professionally trained and qualified teachers, including female teachers, and the need to provide full access to separate, adequate and safe sanitation services, that include hygiene kits.
The promotion, protection and enjoyment of human rights on the Internet A/HRC32/L20
The core group consists of: Brazil, Nigeria, Sweden, Tunisia, Turkey and the United States of America. The focus of this resolution is on empowering all women and girls by enhancing their access to information and communications technology, promoting digital literacy, eliminating the digital gender divide, the protection of the freedom of expression, and the elimination of gender based violence on the internet.
The resolution condemns measures to intentionally prevent or disrupt access to or dissemination of information online. The resolution calls for OHCHR to prepare a report on ways to bridge the gender digital divide from a human rights perspective.
Inclusion of reference to eaves-dropping and right to privacy
YES 15 / NO 23 / ABSTAIN 9
Inclusion of new OP Expresses its concern at the use of the Internet and information and communications technology to disseminate ideas based on racial superiority or hatred, and incitement to racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance
YES 17 / NO 25 / ABSTAIN 5
Removal of reference to Human Rights Based Approach
YES 18 / NO 24 / ABSTAIN 5
Youth and Human Rights A/HRC/32/L.1
This is the first resolution on Youth and Human Rights. It was tabled by a core group consisting of Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt, El Salvador, France, Greece, Italy, Morocco, Philippines, Portugal, Republic of Moldova and Tunisia. The resolution passed unopposed and without a vote. The resolution calls for a panel on Youth and Human Rights during HRC 33 (March 2017) to identify main challenges faced by youth in the exercise of their rights.
Sexual Rights-related Panels & Discussions
Annual full-day discussion on the human rights of women
Theme 2: Women’s rights and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: delivering on the promise to leave no one behind
The panel provided an opportunity to discuss the Sustainable Development Goals in compliance with human rights obligations, particularly related to gender equality and paying attention to the impact of intersecting forms of discrimination.The SRI delivered an oral statement addressing laws that criminalize and restrict health services only women and girls, impunity for intimate partner violence, sexual violence and violence against sex workers, the lack of comprehensive sexuality education, and gap in recognizing the intersection of human rights. The SRI encourages states to think about sustainable development in a different way, one that fully respects the autonomy of the person and challenges the gender based status quo that exists in all parts of the world.
Clustered ID with the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences and the Working Group on discrimination against women
The Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences and the Working Group on discrimination against women presented their reports.
The SRI delivered an oral statement, addressing the need for an intersectional approach and calling on states to adopt a holistic, integrated approach to violence and discrimination; to act collaboratively and support NGOs working on violence against women; to continue the work to eliminate online violence while taking measures to recognise and protect the right to privacy and anonymity, freedom of expression and of association and the right to access information; and to adopt a holistic approach towards women’s health and safety.
Panel on the promotion and protection of the right to development: Commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the declaration on the right to development
The discussion focused on the promotion and protection of the right to development in order to generate policy recommendations and practical measures for making the right to development a reality for everyone. The SRI delivered an oral statement reminding the Council that since there can be no human rights without addressing human needs, the right to development, aimed at addressing human needs, is an integral part of all human rights.
The SRI is asking states to act collectively to tackle poverty and inequality and its consequences; to recognize, track and address the human rights implications of development; to resist double standards in the recognition and respect for rights; and to facilitate a holistic approach to the issue of poverty and inequality by addressing its systemic and structural causes.
Report on the Special Rapporteur on the right to everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health
The Special Rapporteur on the right to everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health presented his report.
The SRI delivered an oral statement, reminding states that they have the primary responsibility to ensure the full realization of the right to health and must address the root causes presented in the report. The SRI calls for states to meet their obligations to recognize adolescents as rights holders and encourages the Special Rapporteur to continue to focus on and examine adolescents sexual and reproductive health from a human rights perspective.
The SRI delivered an oral statement commending efforts related to sexual orientation and gender identity while reminding the Council that human rights related to sexuality address a wide range of issues that intersect with several other rights. To this end, the SRI called upon the Council to ensure that all measures recognize and address the root causes of violence and discrimination and the multiple and intersecting forms of oppression; to recognize that it is impossible to address violations related to sexuality and gender without naming and addressing their root causes; to systematically address multiple and intersecting forms of oppression; and to recognize and establish protections to all those whose rights are violated through criminalisation.
SRI Oral Statements
Outcomes from the 24th session of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) were reviewed during the 32nd session of the HRC. The following fourteen countries were reviewed: Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Latvia, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Palau, Paraguay, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Solomon Islands, and Somalia.
SRI delivered statements to three countries:
SRI also made statements on:
- Item 8: General Debate
- Item 3: Clustered ID with the Special Rapporteur on the right to health and the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children
- Item 3: Clustered ID with the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences and the Working Group on discrimination against women
- HRC res. 6/30 and 29/14: Annual full-day discussion on the human rights of women – theme two
- HRC RES. 31/4: Panel on the promotion and protection of the rights to development: Commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the declaration on the right to development
The National Sexual Rights Law and Policy Database documents and compares the status of law and policy related to sexual rights issues in different countries around the world.
Read the SRI & IPPF UPR
Created in 2006 to replace the United Nations Human Rights Commission, the Human Rights Council is the foremost international body for the promotion and protection of human rights and can be used to bring substantial pressure on governments to take steps to implement human rights norms. The Human Rights Council is comprised of governments of countries that are members of the United Nations and is an important venue to develop and advance sexual rights as a critical part of the international human rights framework.