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Voices of Feminists, Women’s Rights, LGBTIQ+ and Trans-led Movements Must be at the Center of the Special Procedures Mechanism.

This statement was delivered by AWID on behalf of 9 civil society organizations, during the Annual Civil Society Meeting with Special Procedures on Friday 16 June 2023.

Thank you. I make this statement on behalf of AWID, Global Action for Trans Equality (GATE),  CHOICE for Youth and Sexuality, International Service for Human Rights, CREA, Sexual Rights Initiative, th Swedish Federation of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights (RFSL), IWRAW Asia Pacific and ILGA World.

We thank the mandate holders, the Coordination Committee and the Secretariat for creating this space for  civil society  to engage with the Special Procedures mechanism as a whole. For civil society, the Special Procedures hold a central role in advancing human rights norms and standards. 

We want to ensure the integrity of the Special Procedures mechanism as a whole, and its role in advancing human rights standards. The coordinated mobilization against rights of trans people, and on rights related to gender and sexuality more broadly, cannot be understood in isolation from heightened hyper-nationalism and religious fundamentalisms, wider regressions and attacks on human rights and democracy globally. Within the context of the UN human rights systems, this has manifested as attacks on the very content and structure of our human rights norms, institutions, and protections which aims to dismantle state accountability for human rights abuses. 

Special Procedures have a crucial role to play as independent experts in strategically guiding these discussions in accordance with the principle of universality of human rights. Critically, at a minimum, this signifies that Special Procedures have a responsibility to do no harm to rights holders.  

In this context, we are dismayed over the series of harmful statements made and actions taken by the current UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women and girls, its causes and consequences, Reem Alsalem, who has misapplied established human rights principles and frameworks and in doing so has advocated for discriminatory policies against trans people and regressive essentialist approaches to women’s rights. 

Feminists, women’s rights, human rights, and LGBTIQ+ organizations have persistently demonstrated the harms caused by the Special Rapporteur’s call for additional obstacles and conditions to legal gender recognition that undermine the rights of trans people. The Special Rapporteur’s call for an understanding of discrimination based on “sex-based rights'' contradicts and regresses from established international human rights standards and norms on gender and sexuality. This position is also based on unfounded evidence and disinformation. It risks fueling violence and discrimination targeted at trans people and undoing years of rights affirming work done by the Special Procedures mechanisms.

As civil society, we have a vested interest in the integrity and credibility of the UN Special Procedures being upheld. We continue to support the Special Procedures mandates as a mechanism to progress human rights norms and language - including on rights related to gender and sexuality.  However, we cannot do this alone without the political will of those holding power within the systems. We insist that accountability to rights holders is centered in the work of the Special Procedures, and that harmful practices are halted. Voices and concerns of feminists, women’s rights, and LGBTIQ+ movements - particularly trans-led groups - must be at the center rather than the margins. 

Thank you.