Gender and Sexual Orientation


Gender and sexual orientation are basically sensitive both to the UN and most other countries in the world. The subject was practically kept under wraps until 2008 when it was first discussed. While it is commonly known that countless people are being subjected to human rights violations based on their gender and sexual orientation, it is not possible to assume that these violations can be ended as easily as by protecting their rights under the UN Charter.


While doing this, it is likely to ensure a universal obligation to protect them and respect their humanness above the choices they make. There are a number of basic factors that must be straightened out before this option can be effective and successful. This paper looks at how these violations are connected to the universal human rights already being protected, and why they should not be specifically mentioned at the moment. It also mentions what should be done before the UN can include these people in the UN charter.


Sexual orientation, basically, involves the feelings, desires, practices, and identifications that one possesses as an individual. Sexual orientation varies from homosexual, to bisexual and heterosexual. While all these are recognized orientations, social constructions have differentiated them such that whatever is deviant of the majority of "normal' is regarded as abnormal. Gender also has suffered social constructionism. It can be defined as an individual's expression with regards to categories of masculinity and femininity.

There are numerous unwritten codes of conduct as to how a woman should act and how a man should look. Social constructionism has taken away the freedom of choice and individuality such that those who are perceived as "abnormal" remain as prisoners of conscience and are often discriminated against by society (Mallon, 2008).

Considering the UN as a body that fights against violations of human rights, and looking at this from a perspective of human rights, it is not an option, but clearly a necessity. The United Nations will have to intervene and protect gender and sexual orientation under its human rights division in the United Nations Charter. There still is a lot to be done in the way of sensitization such that those daring to be different can understand the reasons behind their decisions and avoid making impulsive choices. This paper will present numerous reasons concerning this topic.

This paper focuses on the issues that make gender and sexual orientation a human rights problem that requires the intervention of the United Nations. Gender and sexual orientation should be protected under the United Nation's Charter, but not precisely at this moment. A lot of groundwork still needs to be done to ensure that this protection is not abused and to mitigate possible opposition that will most likely be based on rigid social constructions against the freedom of association of those labeled as "abnormal" among other things.

This paper is divided into four sections. The first section discusses the violations against people based on their gender, while the second section discusses violations based on sexual orientation. The third section is about the reasons that these violations take place and why they fall under the mandate of the UN. The fourth section of this paper presents discussions on what the international body has to do before it can protect gender and sexual orientation under human rights in the United Nations Charter. The paper ends in a conclusion that basically summarizes the gender and sexual orientation issue.

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Gender is perspective from the roots of its definition. It involves how one expresses himself or herself, and classification is totally dependent on a normative understanding of social expectations that are often mistaken as natural. These perceptions and expectations have, however, been nurtured by social definitions of how a person from either category should look, act, think, talk, eat, and even feel. These unwritten rules have almost no basis in the physiological or rather biological classifications.

Based on their physiology, people are subjected to behave in ways that conform to society's beliefs and expectations regardless of what they would want for themselves. For example, gender identity is supposed to be a personal choice. One should be able to identify himself/herself with whichever gender he or she feels suitable. This has, however, been made impossible by our society's expectations and dictations of who we should be or are meant to be.

This is largely a deprivation of the freedom of choice as well as the privacy to make decisions with regards to personal matters. Social restrictions on gender identity can thus be argued out as a form of imprisonment within the conscience by a society that is set to not only judge harshly, but also punish those who dare to be "free", and act contrary to the set expectations. A man who "acts or looks like a woman" and a woman who "acts or looks like a man" have no place in most social arrangements. They are treated as outsiders, or better yet unwanted elements or mistakes of nature (Ocha, 2013).

In this respect, those with feminine biological dispositions should be women by the social construct, just as those with masculine features should be men. There is no space for "in-between" or trans-sexual manifestations such that they are considered unacceptable. This forces people to identify themselves with a particular gender for fear of being discriminated against, and can, therefore, be equated to societal manipulation and mental slavery.

Sexual Orientation

Sexual orientation is absolutely personal. Therefore, it does not in any way threaten the peace and prosperity of a society. Moreover, it is not an issue that requires social monitoring, but rather individual respect and acceptance. Being about feelings, desires, and practices, sexual orientation is not something that should be hidden.

A person should be able to live their lives in whichever way they choose, and it does not pose a security risk to others in any way. Choosing to become a homosexual, heterosexual or bisexual should not condemn a person, but rather liberate them as knowing one's true self is a great step in life.

Unfortunately, society has already defined what the "right" sexual orientation is, leaving those who do not conform to it looking like wrongdoers. They are perceived as to have violated the laws of nature, yet these laws are a mere social construct that is set to limit the freedoms of individuals.

This restricts individuals from conforming to heterosexuality despite having feelings and desires that place them in other orientations. In addition, just like with the gender issue, society again enslaves or manipulates people to conform to the unwritten definitions of right and wrong.

Justification and Alignment to the UN's Objectives

Contrary to social constructionist ideologies, gender identity and sexual orientation are not entirely about choices. Scientific studies have shown that it is a combination of hormonal, genetic as well as environmental influences that are coupled with the factors in the early uterine environment. This simply means that what social constructs define as unnatural is actually natural. Thus, it is not a fair basis judgment and discrimination as observed in most social organizations (O'Flaherty & Fisher, 2008).

As an international body, founded on the basis of fostering and maintaining global peace and curbing threats to international security, the UN has the mandate to protect those being victimized on the basis of their gender and social orientation. This should be done under the human rights chapter given the level of violations of the human rights of these people.

Given the variation in cultural practices and beliefs in the world, it is important to realize that it would be impractical to sit back and hope that all societies will realize that there are no rules written in stone about gender and sexual orientation and thus respect individual choices on the issue. People have turned gender and sexual orientation into a morality debate, where the social constructs of right and wrong apply. This leaves those judged to be on the wrong side at the mercy of the social jury, thus tremendous violations of human rights.

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Numerous studies have shown the kind of treatment received by gay, lesbian, bisexual, asexual, and transgender persons in most parts of the world. The religious and deeply cultural communities have proven to be the worst when it comes to accepting and respecting people perceived to be unnatural within their social constructs. All countries in the Organization of American countries have come to terms with the subject of gender and sexual orientation.

However, the same cannot be said of Asian, African, and other social organizations. This implies that people who have chosen or fallen into a sexual orientation that is not normal by the constructs of their respective societies and living outside the liberalized American countries are more often than not subjected to a number of violations.

They undergo atrocities that include, but are not limited to discrimination, torture, imprisonment, police brutality, hate crime, threats from fellow community members, and even execution, humiliation, and verbal attacks from the society as a whole. In most communities, it is seen that those perceived to have chosen a different path from the majority with regards to gender and sexual orientation are restricted in terms of their association with the community members. Society totally discriminates against them, in such a way that they become outcasts.

Also, the fact that same-sex unions are not recognized in most countries and criminalized in others means that such couples are denied the chance to adopt or have their own children as they will not be granted custody under state laws. Basically, they are also often mistreated by authorities, detained without questioning based on mere allegations, unfairly suspected of sodomy and pedophilic tendencies, among others. Moreover, they are further denied the chance to make choices and live by them, given that they are barely left to even experience their chosen paths.

Analyzing these experiences from a perspective of rights and freedoms, it is clear that they are deprived of numerous rights and some of these are listed below:

  • the right to life;
  • the right to personal security;
  • the right to freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention;
  • the right to a fair trial;
  • the right to equality and non-discrimination;
  • the right to participate in cultural life;
  • the right to treatment with humanity while in detention;
  • the right to freedom from torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment;
  • the right to effective remedies and redress;
  • the right to accountability;
  • the right to recognition before the law;
  • the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association;
  • the right to participate in cultural life;
  • the right to seek redress and remedies;
  • the right to freedom of opinion and expression;
  • the right to universal enjoyment of human rights;
  • the right to security;
  • the right to privacy;
  • the right to freedom from arbitrary deprivation of liberty;
  • the right to work;
  • the right to social protection;
  • the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion;
  • the right to found a family;
  • the right to participate in public life;
  • the right to promote human rights;
  • the right to accountability.

This surely implies that people are indeed subjected to human rights violations based on their gender and sexual orientation. As an international body responsible for protecting the rights of people across all borders, it is left to the United Nations to change this trend on the global front. So far, there has been some progress since the subject started being discussed in 2008. However, there is still such a long way to go since it is not as simple as passing a declaration, resolution, or inclusion in the UN Charter.

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Why Not Now

Before considering a declaration that covers all member states with regards to protecting persons being unfairly treated on the basis of their gender and sexual orientation, the UN has to consider a number of factors on the ground. The international agency needs to work with its member states to create a level ground for the discussion of this subject at the grassroots level so as to negotiate the dynamics.

Some societies are against the recognition of human rights violations against persons based on their gender and sexual orientation because they fear that it will encourage or force them to condone the practice. This is, however, not the case, because protecting these persons simply aims at ensuring that they are considered as humans first before anything else.

Currently, there are about 94 UN member states supporting the protection of the rights of persons who are mistreated based on their gender identity and sexual orientation. 46 member states are abstaining while 54 are absolutely opposed to the idea.

Assuming that those abstaining from taking a position on the matter are doing so out of uncertainty with regards to their domestic public opinion, there is more opposition than support for the issue. Most governments would rather not commit themselves to an issue as sensitive as morality. There are about five states that currently punish homosexuality by death, and in totality 76 states do criminalize homosexuality and bisexuality (Sanlo, 2005).

Knowing all these facts, it would be dangerous for the UN to go ahead and protect these people's rights without, first of all, setting the ground for public acceptance and implementation by the state. Rather than risk public outcry and withdrawal of member states from the body, in the beginning, the UN needs to work on the basics.

First and foremost, gender is a social construct. Furthermore, it is an established fact that each society has its own set of unwritten rules that need to be respected. It is in this sense that the UN cannot expect, for example, the Iranian society to openly accept and condone women acting, dressing, or talking like men simply, because of a universal declaration (Shah, 2010). The organization will have to do a lot of groundwork in terms of sensitizing the masses with an aim of creating a tolerant society. This can be well achieved by getting the relevant facts and presenting them to the general public for analysis.

In order to deal with the negative publicity given to variations in gender identity and sexual orientation, it would be invaluable to educate the masses on the scientific angle involved in this issue. Rather than looking at it as simply a bad choice, they should be able to understand the natural mechanisms that precede such decisions. In clearly seeing the bigger picture, they might be able to consider the idea that it is not a bad choice, but rather a courageous move towards self-acceptance.

Decriminalize Homosexuality

In addition, before the social constructs towards gender identity and sexual orientation can change, the authorities need to decriminalize the practice. It is not possible for society to accept something that is termed as a criminal offense in the laws that they live by. Decriminalizing homo and bisexuality will open the subject to discussion, and thus allow the facts to be disseminated to the public for better understanding and tolerance (Farrior, 2009). Other than simply decriminalizing deviant sexual orientations, governments need to end the discrimination presented in civil marriage laws to accommodate and recognize same-sex unions.

Create a Tolerant Social Dispensation

Recognition and protection of the rights of people being mistreated based on their gender and sexual orientation is not aimed at convincing people that it is right or wrong to be who they are. It is simply intended to instill respect and tolerance towards all people regardless of the paths they choose in life. The choice and definition of right and wrong should and will remain a social and legal construct that cannot be interfered with by the UN.

It is in this spirit, therefore, that the United Nations should seek to engage its member states to drop their rigid stand against the idea of protecting the rights of people who are mistreated based on their gender and sexual orientation (Morrow & Messinger, 2006).

While respecting that a Christian or Muslim state cannot preach in favor of homosexuality, the UN will need to persuade and make them realize that protecting human rights is not the same as condoning or encouraging the "sins". Respecting people regardless of their choices is simply granting them the right and privacy to make decisions regarding matters that affect their private lives without state interference (Ocha, 2013).

When such tolerant perceptions are cultivated in every society across the world, or at least in a majority without abstentions, then the UN can go ahead and protect these people from violations of their rights based on gender and sexual orientation. Otherwise, it will be fighting against such deeply rooted social constructions that might actually result in global sabotage of the organization as a whole.

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In conclusion, gender and sexual orientation are generally sensitive subjects in most societies. Individually, people may tend to be open-minded about it, but as a society, there are numerous constructs that cannot just be wished away by making a UN declaration. While it is impossible to shun the hostilities and atrocities committed against people based on their gender and sexual orientation, it is also equally impossible to ignore the dictations of our social constructs in handling the issue. It is quite obvious that people are in so many ways denied their human rights on the basis of their gender identity and sexual orientation.

This, however, does not mean that the UN can go right ahead and protect these rights thus obliging all its member states to comply. A number of precedents need to be put in place before this can be successful and effective in protecting all of the world's people regardless of their gender and sexual orientation.

Members of society need to understand that people who willingly choose or are inclined by their nature to opt for different sexual orientations or gender identities, do not do so merely out of spite for the norm. Consequently, they need to understand the scientific and environmental aspects of the whole gender and sexual orientation issue such that they can stop reading maliciousness in the whole idea.

As a matter of fact, the main problem facing homosexuals in the world today is the ignorance that has cultivated fear amongst the masses. Basically, people do not understand sexuality and gender identity since they have been governed and conditioned by their social constructs on the issue.

Thus, the first thing the UN needs to work on is the information dispensation. The international body has to come up with ways to educate and enlighten the global population without appearing to encourage the idea of homosexuality. This should be done in full cooperation with the state authorities to avoid any misunderstandings or wrangles in the corridors of power.

Another thing that the agency needs to strongly advocate for is the decriminalization of homosexuality so that people can be more forward and free to talk about it and ask the necessary questions so as to learn more and root out ignorance and paranoia. Lastly, the third step would be to discourage or simply prohibit state discrimination beginning with amending civil marriage laws to recognize same-sex unions, as well.

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