Wednesday, November 29, 2023
U.N. Human Rights Committee Offers Critical Recommendations for Transgender Rights in the United States
By: Nic Stelter, Student Fellow & Tamar Ezer, Acting Director Human Rights Clinic, University of Miami School of Law
As we mark the end of Transgender Awareness Month, the United States needs to take a hard look at rampant discrimination against transgender communities. Since 2019, laws violating transgender rights have swept the country:
- 14 states limit discussion of LGBTQ+ issues in schools and prohibit the use of transgender students’ names and pronouns.
- In 9 states, transgender individuals are prohibited from using the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity in schools, as well other public spaces in some cases.
- 22 states ban at least some forms of gender-affirming health care for children, and 5 of these states punish gender-affirming care as a felony.
- In 23 states, transgender students are banned from participating in school sports consistent with their gender identity.
- We’ve seen book bans double with 45.5% of books targeted written by or about LGBTQ+ individuals.
Moreover, lawmakers have introduced over 500 more bills limiting transgender rights in just the last year.
Our Human Rights Clinic had the opportunity to support a coalition, including Human Rights Watch, Equality Florida, Florida Health Justice Project, Southern Legal Counsel, and Southern Poverty Law Center in advocacy before the United Nations (U.N.) Human Rights Committee, as it reviewed the U.S. for compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). This included submission of a shadow report on human rights violations against transgender communities, development of a factsheet, and oral presentations to the Committee.
Earlier this month, the Human Rights Committee released its Concluding Observations and underscored with concern “the increase of state legislation that severely restricts the rights of persons based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.” Additionally, it pointed to hate crimes and prevalent discrimination in access to housing, employment, and other services. The Committee found violations of the rights to equality and non-discrimination; freedom of expression; privacy; family; life; and freedom from torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment.
To prevent these abuses, the Human Rights Committee urged the U.S. to “adopt all measures necessary to ensure that state laws that discriminate against persons based on their sexual orientation and gender identity are repealed and that comprehensive legislative initiatives prohibiting discrimination on those grounds . . . are adopted at the federal, state, local and territorial levels.” The Committee further called on the U.S. to investigate harassment and violence against transgender individuals and make sure that “perpetrators are brought to justice and victims are provided with effective remedies and redress.”
It is time for the U.S. to heed the Committee’s recommendations. Its findings, as Human Rights Watch noted, are “a wake-up call for state and federal lawmakers.” As one of our partners, a former teacher and transgender resident of Florida, poignantly stated, “Trans people are humans too and deserve to live in this country.” Let’s make the U.S a place where everyone can live with dignity. We hope the Concluding Observations can serve as a tool in pushing this forward.