Supporting Human Rights for All

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2006 National LGBT Conference
21 September 2006

Conference recalls that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights” and affirms that:

1.Promoting and defending human rights is a core part of trade union international solidarity, working alongside relevant human rights organisations;

2. We must ensure the UK government protects human rights here and abroad and gives refuge to asylum seekers facing persecution, including on grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.

Conference notes that people’s human rights are abused on a range of grounds including their gender, disability, race or ethnicity, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, political affiliation, trade union activities or because they are themselves human rights defenders. In many countries, such abuses occur with support from the government, police and legal system.

Examples of human rights abuses facing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people include:

A.The use of the death penalty for homosexuality in 7 countries and continued criminalisation of homosexuality in more than 80 countries (over one third of the countries in the world);

B.Extreme violence and murder, including extrajudicial murder;

C.Banning of marches for LGBT equality, including in European Union member states which subscribe to minimum human rights standards, and/or the failure of governments to protect the right to freedom of assembly.

Conference welcomes the increasing activism of unions and union bodies in defending the human rights of LGBT people. This includes:

I.The lead being given by our TUC in lobbying for LGBT rights issues to be included in ILO reports on discrimination;

II.The call from the ETUC for the European Commission to use the occasion of 2007 being ‘European Year of Equal Opportunities for All’ to ensure more pro-active focus is placed on sexual orientation discrimination;

III.The forthcoming second Educational International/Public Services International Forum on LGBT rights in September 2007.

Conference applauds the work carried out by ILGA (International Lesbian and Gay Association) to challenge human rights violations and welcomes the current campaign by the National Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Committee to encourage regional and branch LGBT groups to affiliate to and participate in ILGA; for branches to make donations to ILGA; and to encourage other trade unions to affiliate to ILGA.

Conference recognises the potential role of the Council of Europe and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, United Nations institutions such as the International Labour Organisation (ILO), Special Rapporteurs (e.g. Freedom of Religion, Torture, Summary Executions and Extrajudicial Murder, Situation of Human Rights Defenders etc) and the UN Human Rights Council. Conference applauds the keynote address of Louise Arbour, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, to the 2006 Montreal LGBT Human Rights Conference in which she said ‘States have a legal duty to investigate and prosecute all instances of violence and abuse with respect to every single person under their jurisdiction. Excluding LGBT individuals from these protections clearly violates international human rights law as well as the common standards of humanity that define us all’.

However Conference deplores the fact that the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) routinely refuses LGBT non-governmental organisations UN Consultative status and that countries with a poor human rights record (in particular in relation to sexual orientation and gender identity) take a prominent role in both the UN Human Rights Council and the UN ECOSOC. Conference believes there is still a long way to go before the United Nations properly addresses human rights violations on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity so as to give true meaning to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Conference resolves therefore to continue to campaign for human rights for all people and calls for:

a.UNISON International delegations to seek opportunities to address LGBT human rights issues;

b.Regions to discuss with their LGBT groups how to incorporate LGBT human rights issues in their regional international work programmes;

c.UNISON to seek opportunities for projects with trade unions/ union federations in countries where LGBT human rights abuses occur, with a particular focus on capacity building;

d.Support for the call for branches and regions to consider affiliation to the International Lesbian and Gay Association;

e.UNISON Labour Link to continue to raise issues of human rights with the Government, including pressing for the UK to sign and ratify Protocol 12 to the European Convention on Human Rights (which enshrines a freestanding protection from discrimination) and to raise abuses on grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression in the European Union and the United Nations;

f.UNISON to continue to work through the TUC and Labour Internationals to promote recognition of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression within the International Labour Organisation.