Top U.N. Official Says Same-Sex Partnership Protections Needed To Safeguard Human Rights

The new report issued Monday is the first to tackle LGBT rights since Jordanian Prince Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein was named U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, called for all countries to provide legal protections for same sex couples and their children in a report issued Monday.

Hussein stopped short of recommending countries to call those protections "marriage," but the report suggested that whatever these partnerships are called, they should make all the same protections available to same-sex couples.

"States should address discrimination by: .... Providing legal recognition to same-sex couples and their children, ensuring that benefits traditionally accorded married partners – including those related to benefits, pensions, and taxation and inheritance – are accorded on a non-discriminatory basis," the report released by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said.

The recommendation is one of 20 proposals Hussein is putting forward to states to enact to combat violence and discrimination against LGBTI people.

That such a recommendation would be put forward at all shows how rapidly the discussion of LGBTI rights is advancing in diplomatic circles. The high commissioner's office has only issued a report on LGBT rights once before — in 2011 — and that document was almost exclusively focused on preventing violence, repealing laws criminalizing homosexuality, and ensuring LGBT advocates can exercise basic political rights.

The report was ordered by the United Nations Human Rights Commission shortly after Hussein took office last year following a bitter debate in Geneva. Opposition to the resolution was led by Egypt and other members of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation, which has been a base of opposition to advancing LGBT rights since efforts first began around ten years ago.

But this new report may carry special significance because the OHCHR is now has a leader from a Muslim majority country: Hussein, who took the post in September 2014, is a prince of the royal family of Jordan.

This year's report did not shy away from making other politically charged recommendations, such as appearing to single out Russia by calling for the repeal of its "so-called 'anti-propaganda' and other laws that impose discriminatory restrictions on freedom of expression, association and assembly."

It also called for states to enact hate-crime laws and urged the adoption of bans on "conversion therapy" intended to end same-sex attraction. And it made several suggests for protections for intersex people — who are born without clearly male or female anatomy — including calling for an end to the kinds of genital surgery now routinely performed on intersex infants.

The report also reiterated recommendations from the 2011 report calling for the repeal of criminal sodomy laws and allowing transgender people to change their documentation.

Read the full report here:


Prince Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein is the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. An earlier version of this article referred to him incorrectly as the High Commissioner for Refugees.

This post's headline has been edited for clarity.

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