The United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva has appointed its first independent investigator to protect LGBTI people around the world from violence and discrimination.
The person appointed UN Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity is Vitit Muntarbhorn (pictured), an international law professor at a Thai university who has served on several UN bodies in the past.
In the new three-year role he’ll investigate abuses against LGBTI people and work with states on addressing the violence and discrimination.
International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) Executive Director Renato Sabbadini said: “Never has there been a more urgent need to safeguard the human rights of LGBTI persons around the world.
“Attacked, discriminated against, targeted and invisibilized, our communities need an ally like Professor Muntarbhorn to ensure that ‘All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights,’ as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights clearly states, is a reality and not only a dream.”
ILGA spokesperson André du Plessis added: “Not only has [Muntarbhorn] worked with national human rights commissions, the Thai Ministry of Justice and NGOs on this issue, but he has commanded respect in the UN system on many other issues.”
The UN agreed to create the new role in June, with 23 countries voting in favour and 18 against following heated debate and objections raised by Saudi Arabia and other countries.
A UN report last year said more than 76 countries have laws that criminalise or persecute LGBTI people. Eight countries prescribe the death penalty for homosexual conduct, including Saudi Arabia, Brunei, and parts of Nigeria, the report said.
“By creating a UN expert, the Human Rights Council has given official voice to those facing violations because of their sexual orientation or gender identity the world over,” Human Rights Watch Geneva director John Fisher said earlier this year.