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Regional forum explores rights, sexual orientation and gender identity

Graphic: Participants at the Yogyakarta Principles Forum

Participants highlighted the many challenges facing LGBTI people in the region and the steps NHRIs can take to better promote and protect their rights


To be fully included in the economic, social and cultural life of their communities and to live free from violence and discrimination: this was the call from participants at a major regional conference to discuss the human rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex people.

The conference, held in Wellington, New Zealand from 16-18 March 2011 as part of the 2nd Asia Pacific Outgames, explored six major themes: Work; Learning; Wellbeing (Mind and Body); Our stories from the Past; Law and our Rights; and Spirit.

A guiding principle behind the discussions was the importance of ensuring that the fundamental human rights of all people of diverse sexual orientation and gender identity, set out in the Yogkakarta Principles, are respected in practice.

Within the three-day conference, the New Zealand Human Rights Commission hosted the Yogyakarta Principles Forum to examine the role that national human rights institutions (NHRIs) can play to better promote and protect these rights at the country level.

The discussions were led by a range of distinguished speakers and panellists, including Justice Susan Glazebrook, from the New Zealand Court of Appeal, John Fisher, Co-Director of of ARC International, and human rights experts from across the Asia Pacific.

Representatives from the NHRIs of Australia, Malaysia, Indonesia, India and Nepal also shared their perspectives and expertise.

Participants highlighted the many challenges faced by people of diverse sexual orientation and gender identity across the region, with many experiencing daily instances of abuse, violence and persecution.

"An important goal of the forum was to share information and to help spark much-needed debate about how NHRIs and civil society can make human rights a reality for gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans and intersex people in the Asia Pacific," said Rosslyn Noonan, Chief Commissioner of the New Zealand Human Rights Commission.

The Yogyakarta Principles Forum is one of a number of practical projects that APF member institutions are undertaking to promote greater understanding and protection of the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people.

Other projects include:

  • Consultations and advocacy aimed at strengthening legal protection against discrimination (Australia)
  • A national training program to bolster skills in reporting, analysis, investigation and prosecution of human rights violations (Indonesia)
  • A detailed analysis of the national legal framework and awareness raising activities (Mongolia)
  • Forging partnerships with LGBT groups, advocacy and developing a human rights education program for local government (Philippines)

In addition, the APF's Advisory Council of Jurists released a major report on Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity in 2010, which assessed the consistency of national laws and policies in APF member countries against international human rights standards.

It also provided recommendations to assist NHRIs use their research, education, monitoring and advocacy functions to better promote and protect the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

Date: 22 March 2011


Image credits

  1. Participants at the Yogyakarta Principles Forum - New Zealand Human Rights Commission