2012 has seen a historical focus on gender identity and sexual orientation within the United Nations, making it a very significant year in the movement towards basic human rights for all.
On March 7 2012 the UN Human Rights Council convened a panel debate concerning LGBT equality, for the first time focusing explicitly on gender identity and sexual orientation.
The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navanethem Pillay, urged countries to improve their laws and policies to better serve LGBT citizens. She pushed for decriminalisation of homosexuality and the acceptance of LGBT people who seek asylum due to persecution:
The main purpose of the panel debate was to affirm the UN human rights report of November 2011, ”Discriminatory laws and practices and acts of violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity”. This report shows how discrimination against LGBT persons has wide-ranging consequences within areas of relevance in development work such as employment, education, family-life and health care.
For example criminalisation of homosexuality can deter individuals from seeking health services for fear of revealing criminal conduct. Even within countries without criminal sanctions, homophobic, sexist and transphobic practices and attitudes on the part of health-care institutions and personnel may deter LGBT persons from seeking services, which in turn has a negative impact on efforts to tackle HIV/AIDS and other health concerns.
The UN report states that all people, including LGBT persons are entitled to enjoy the protections provided for by international human rights law. This includes the respect of rights to life, security of person and privacy, the right to be free from torture, arbitrary arrests and detention, the right to be free from discrimination and the right to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly.
The Human Rights Commission focuses on the obligations of states to prevent violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, refering to various international human rights instruments (specified on page 5-8):
The UN has also published a leaflet on how to tackle discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity.
It offers a two-page description of the UN's work in the LGBT area as well as legal guidance to States issued by human rights treaty bodies.
Here is a short video explaining the history of LGBT rights at the UN (duration 2:50): https://youtu.be/4c3QFPX_LmM6u