Open brief aan dr. Purna Sen, Policy Director of UN Women

Eind september 2015 hebben 84 organisaties uit de hele wereld, waaronder NNID, een open brief geschreven aan dr. Pura Sen, de nieuwe policy director van de vrouwenorganisatie van de Verenigde Naties,  UN Women.

In de brief wordt  UN Women opgeroepen een LBTI-adviesraad in te stellen.  In december 2014 heeft Miriam van der Have voor NNID gesproken met verschillende vertegenwoordigers van UN Women en toen bleek al dat intersekse hoog op de agenda van UN Women staat. Dat intersekserechten in nauw verband staan met vrouwenrechten blijkt natuurlijk ook uit de subsidies die de feministische fondsen Mama Cash (Nederland) en Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice (Verenigde Staten) aan NNID hebben verstrekt.

Maar de brief laat ook zien hoe belangrijk de samenwerking met LHBT(I) organisaties is. Net zoals feminisme geen synoniem is voor lesbisch, zo is intersekse niet hetzelfde als lesbisch, homo, bi of transgender. Maar het zijn wel groepen die in de praktijk aan dezelfde onderwerpen werken. Daarbij staat centraal dat de maatschappij de begrippen man en vrouw gebruikt zonder dat is nagedacht wat de definitie van die begrippen zijn. De definities die gehanteerd worden, dragen vrijwel altijd bij aan discriminatie van de groepen.

UN Women heeft inmiddels gereageerd op de brief en de ondertekenaars uitgenodigd voor een gesprek.



Dr. Purna Sen Policy Director UN Women 220 E 42nd Street New York, NY 10017 USA

September 23, 2015

Dear Dr. Sen,

The undersigned organizations would like to extend our warmest and most sincere welcome to you in your new role as Policy Director at UN Women. We very much look forward to collaborating with you in this capacity.

As organizations and individuals working to advance human rights, gender equality and non-discrimination, we share a common goal with UN Women, the equality of women in all of their diversity. However, this diversity encompasses all women, which includes lesbians, bisexual and intersex women and transgender people. We know that on a global level, the human rights violations faced by people in these marginalized groups are often made invisible, with victims and survivors unacknowledged, and with perpetrators acting with impunity. In both the global North and South, the violence and discrimination that lesbians, bisexual and intersex women and trans people face is omnipresent, and cuts across civil, political, economic, social and cultural spheres.

Over the years, several UN agencies and funds, including UNICEF, UNDP, UNESCO, OHCHR and UNFPA have successfully mobilized existing programmatic resources to address the many challenges faced by LGBT, and quite recently “I” (intersex) persons. At the same time, the specific issues related to lesbians, bisexual, intersex women, and transgender people are often at the margin of these concerns. Many UN efforts, while certainly welcome, have had a stronger focus on men who have sex with men ([MSM] often relevant in the context of HIV/AIDS), or general non-discrimination protections that do not address legal or other specific needs of lesbians, bisexual, intersex women and trans people. UN Women is uniquely poised to make a difference on issues at the intersection of sexual orientation, intersex status and gender-based violence and exclusion, that is, the issues that affect lesbians, bisexual and intersex women, and trans people. We very much hope to build on current momentum and support within the UN system at large.

Over the last two decades, UNIFEM and now UN Women has, in fits and starts, tried to address these human rights concerns. Some staff have tried to integrate these concerns and groups into programming, reporting and other ongoing work, yet these efforts have generally rested (and rest) on the commitments of specific individuals rather than on an institutional commitment to full integration. Civil society advocates have worked with staff to take more strategic steps to this end, yet progress has been slow at times.

However, momentum has been made in recent years and we are excited about the current possibilities of progress that can be achieved. In previous communications with colleagues at UN Women over the last few years, we have emphasized the urgent need for UN Women to address and integrate the violations against lesbians, bisexual, intersex women and transgender people within UN Women’s existing programming. The exclusion of, and discrimination against, people in these groups is an urgent matter for UN Women to consistently integrate into its policies and programming, especially in this unprecedented era of UN agency support for LGBTI concerns. We appreciate that as a UNAIDS co-sponsor, UN Women has been instrumental in ensuring an increasing focus on trans people in UNAIDS programming and work. However, at the same time, we have yet to see this support translated into UN Women’s specific programming, despite the urgent and, in many cases, growing need.

After a series of meetings with civil society advocates throughout the past ten or so years, in March of 2014, a number of us sent a letter to UN Women’s leadership explaining our range of concerns and offering our expertise. Furthermore, in March of 2015, representatives from many of our organizations met with UN Women policy and NGO liaison staff, reiterating our human rights concerns about the absence of adequate LBTI programming. In recent years, many of us have also been in contact on an individual basis with UN Women headquarters and regional office staff, with a view of encouraging and supporting the integration of LBTI concerns into existing policy and programmatic work. A concrete proposal on how to move this integration forward was discussed at the March 2015 meeting. As a result, a commitment on the part of UN Women was made to establish a lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and intersex advisory committee with a regionally balanced membership of LBTI activists and organizations to advise UN Women on appropriate policy and programmatic development and content in this regard.

At this time, we would like to reiterate our strong interest in supporting UN Women in establishing a LBTI advisory committee to guide UN Women on these issues. The committee could be instrumental in reviewing and making recommendations for better integration in UN Women’s ongoing policy and programming work. In addition, this committee could also be instrumental in supporting the analysis of existing UN Women data on LBTI inclusion, including internal data on UN Women programmatic LBTI-relevant activities, and data on constitutional protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity (SOGI). An important and essential part of UN Women is the support of intergovernmental bodies in the creation of setting global norms and policies in regards to the empowerment of women from all around the world.

Therefore, an LBTI advisory committee would play an integral role in ensuring that the rights and empowerment of lesbians, bisexual, intersex women, and trans people are also being translated into, and included in these global norms and policies. We write to ask whether you might be available to meet with a group of us during the week of September 28, 2015, to further discuss the details of this proposed committee, as well as other elements of effective inclusion of the concerns of lesbians, bisexual, intersex women, trans people in UN Women policy and programmatic work.

We very much appreciate your time, and look forward to working with you on this important issue.


  • Access Chapter 2, South Africa
  • Africagay contra sida, Cameroon
  • AIDS Accountability International
  • Alternatives Cameroon, Cameroon
  • AMKA Empowerment, Tanzania
  • Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome Support Group Australia Inc., Australia
  • Association for Women in Development, Mexico
  • Association of Liberia people living with HIV and AIDS (AAL+), Liberia
  • Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, United States
  • ATHENA Network, United States
  • Balance Promoción para el Desarrollo y Juventud, Mexico
  • Bishkek Feminist Collective SQ, Kyrgyzstan
  • CamASEAN Youth’s Future (CamASEAN), Cambodia
  • CARE International, United States
  • CariFLAGS Eastern Hub, Saint Lucia
  • Central Asian Gender and Sexuality Network, Kyrgyzstan
  • Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE), United States
  • Christian Aid, United Kingdom
  • Coalition for the Defense of Sexual Rights (CDSR), Nigeria
  • COC Nederland, Netherlands
  • Council for Global Equality, United States
  • DIVERLEX Diversidad e Igualdad a Través de la Ley, Venezuela
  • Diverse Voices and Action for Equality, Fiji
  • Egale Canada Human Rights Trust, Canada
  • FOKUS – Forum for Women and Development, Norway
  • Freedom House, United States
  • Fundación Arcoiris, Mexico
  • Fundación Iguales, Chile
  • GALZ, Zimbabwe
  • Gay Kenya Trust, Kenya
  • GENDEERDOC-M Information Centre, Moldova
  • GenderProud, United States
  • Global Interfaith Network for People of All Sexes, Sexual Orientations, Gender Identities and Expressions (GIN-SSOGIE), South Africa
  • House of Rainbow CIC, United Kingdom
  • House of Rainbow Lagos, Nigeria
  • Human Rights Campaign, United States
  • Human Rights Watch, United States
  • IDAHO-T Committee for the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, France
  • International Centre for Reproductive Health and Sexual Rights (INCRESE), Nigeria
  • International Fellowship of Reconciliation, Netherlands
  • International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, United States
  • International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA)
  • International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Intersex Association – North American region
  • International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Youth and Student Organisation (IGLYO), Belgium
  • International Service for Human Rights, Switzerland
  • International Studies Department of Miriam College, Quezon City, Philippines
  • Iranti-org, South Africa
  • Kaleidoscope Trust, United Kingdom
  • Korea Women’s Hot Line, South Korea
  • Kyrgyz Indigo, Kyrgyzstan
  • Labrys, Kyrgyzstan
  • Lesbian and Gay association of Liberia (LEGAL), Liberia
  • Liberia Initiative for the Promotion of Rights, Diversity, and Equality (LIPRIDE),
  • Liberia
  • Liberian Women Empowerment Network (LIWEN), Liberia
  • LLH – the Norwegian Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Organisation, Norway
  • MantiQinta Network MENA region
  • Mulabi/Espacio Latinoamericano de Sexualidades y Derechos, Costa Rica
  • Muslims for Progressive Values, United States
  • NNID Netherlands organisation for sex diversity (NNID), Netherlands
  • NELFA (Network of European LGBT Families Associations), Belgium
  • Observatorio de Derechos Humanos y Legislación, Chile
  • Organisation Intersex International (OII) Australia, Australia
  • Pan Africa ILGA, South Africa
  • Rainbow Action Against Sexual-Minority Discrimination, South Korea
  • Reproductive Health Matters, United Kingdom
  • RESURJ, International
  • RFSL – the Swedish Federation for LGBT Rights, Sweden
  • San Francisco Human Rights Commission, United States
  • Sexual Rights Centre, Zimbabwe
  • Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines (STRAP), Philippines
  • Stop AIDS in Liberia (SAIL), Liberia
  • Swiss Rainbow Families Association, Switzerland
  • The Lotus Identity, Zambia
  • Trans-Fuzja Foundation, Poland
  • Transgender Europe (TGEU), Germany
  • United Belize Advocacy Movement, Belize
  • United and Strong Inc, Saint Lucia
  • Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights, United States
  • Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights (WGNRR), United States
  • Women’s Health and Equal Rights Initiative (WHER), Nigeria
  • Women on Waves, Netherlands
  • Women on Web, Canada
  • Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights, International