Chile: UN Human Rights Committee Identifies Gaps in Protections for Trans and Intersex Persons

Government Acknowledges Problems, Promises Reform

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(8 July 2014—Geneva) The United Nations Human Rights Committee ended its dialogue with the Chilean government today about the country’s fulfillment of its human rights obligations in areas related to civil rights, political participation, and judicial guarantees. The committee, which monitors implementation of the key human rights convention on civil and political rights, spent one and a half days in dialogue with government officials on issues of concern, based in part on information received from civil society, the so-called shadow reports.

The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) and the Organización de Transexuales por la Dignidad y las Diversidad (Organization of Transsexuals for Dignity and Diversity, or OTD) submitted a shadow report, entitled Human Rights Violations of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) People In Chile, jointly with 15 other organizations. The report documents deficiencies in the anti-discrimination law, abuse of trans persons in detention, and problems related to lack of dignity and respect in the treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and intersex (LGBTI) persons, generally. 

“Throughout the committee’s dialogue with the Chilean government, it was clear that LGBTI issues are not a fringe concern,” said Marianne Møllmann, Director of Programs at IGLHRC. “Until our rights are fully protected, Chile’s human rights record will remain blemished.”

The government acknowledged its human rights obligations in these areas, and made several commitments that would mitigate some of the problems highlighted. Among other things, the Chilean government promised to:

  • Push for amendments to the anti-discrimination law to overcome legal uncertainty and to provide for victims reparations;
  • Support the proposed gender identity law currently before the Chilean Congress;
  • Create a new gender identity area within the police human rights unit;
  • Develop and promote a protocol within the Ministry of Health to ensure that infants born with ambiguous genitals (intersex infants) will not be mutilated; and
  • Develop and promote a protocol within the Ministry of Education to ensure and promote respect for diverse gender identities in all school.

“We have already developed a protocol on trans diversity in schools for the Ministry of Education, which we have shared with the government,” said Andrés Ignacio Rivera Duarte, Director of OTD. “We are working on a protocol on respect in treatment of intersex infants that we will be happy to share as well. The moment I am back in Chile, I will reach out to the government to put these commitments on a concrete timeline.”

Background

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) is an international treaty that outlines a set of fundamental rights guaranteed to all individuals regardless of race, color, sex, language, religion, opinion, nation, property, birth or other status. The ICCPR was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1966 and entered into force in 1976. So far, 166 states, including Chile, are parties to the Covenant. The Human Rights Committee is responsible for monitoring the implementation of the treaty by States Parties. The 18-member committee also has the authority to interpret the treaty through issuing general comments.

The ICCPR requires all state parties to submit Periodic Reports about the implementation of the treaty’s principles to the United Nations Human Rights Committee. Based on the state reports and information gathered by Committee experts, the Committee develops a list of questions (List of Issues) regarding the status of civil and political rights in that country. State Parties often provide a written response to those questions ahead of the official review session of the state’s compliance with the ICCPR. The Committee also accepts reports from non-governmental organizations regarding the human rights situation in that country. These reports are known as Shadow Reports.

Based on the State report, the State written answers to the List of Issues, shadow reports, the State presentation to the Committee, and the interactive dialogue between the State and the Committee, the Committee releases Concluding Observations with a list of concerns and recommendations based on the State’s compliance with it’s treaty obligations. The State will then formally acknowledge which of the Committee recommendations and concerns it will abide by. The Concluding Observations and the State response are powerful tools for domestic advocates seeking to advance human rights and governmental accountability.