Binding international legal standards

I feel a need to learn something about these here Yogyakarta principles we hear so much about.

So I’m reading.

In 2006, in response to well-documented patterns of abuse, a distinguished group of international human rights experts met in Yogyakarta, Indonesia to outline a set of international principles relating to sexual orientation and gender identity. The result was the Yogyakarta Principles: a universal guide to human rights which affirm binding international legal standards with which all States must comply. They promise a different future where all people born free and equal in dignity and rights can fulfil that precious birthright.

Two words there I don’t understand – “binding” and “must.” On what basis do the people who drew up the principles have the authority to make them binding and to say that all States must comply?

Wikipedia gives some background:

The website promoting the Principles notes that concerns have been voiced about a trend of people’s human rights being violated because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. While the United Nations human rights instruments detail obligations to ensure that people are protected from discrimination and stereotypes,[4] which includes people’s expression of sexual orientation or gender identity, implementation of these rights has been fragmented and inconsistent internationally. The Principles aim to provide a consistent understanding about application of international human rights law in relation to sexual orientation and gender identity.[5]

Those two things don’t go together though. They shouldn’t be formulaically paired that way as if they’re the same and have the same kinds of impacts on other people, because they’re not and they don’t.

The Yogyakarta Principles were developed at a meeting of the International Commission of Jurists, the International Service for Human Rights and human rights experts from around the world at Gadjah Mada University on Java from 6 to 9 November 2006. The seminar clarified the nature, scope and implementation of states’ human rights obligations under existing human rights treaties and law, in relation to sexual orientation and gender identity.

Again – not the same. Should not be treated as a pair.

The YP website explains each principle. On the page for principle 3 we get:

Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law. Persons of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities shall enjoy legal capacity in all aspects of life. Each person’s self-defined sexual orientation and gender identity is integral to their personality and is one of the most basic aspects of self-determination, dignity and freedom.

Yet again – not the same thing, should not be treated as a pair. It’s not even clear that “gender identity” is as solid a concept as sexual orientation is, let alone sex.

No one shall be forced to undergo medical procedures, including sex reassignment surgery, sterilisation or hormonal therapy, as a requirement for legal recognition of their gender identity.

Boom – there you have a “principle” that has turned out to be massively destructive of women’s rights. It’s too bad they didn’t manage to think about that back in 2006.

No status, such as marriage or parenthood, may be invoked as such to prevent the legal recognition of a person’s gender identity.

In other words children and spouses have no interests in this question.

No one shall be subjected to pressure to conceal, suppress or deny their sexual orientation or gender identity.

How are we defining “pressure”? Because if we define it broadly enough that means women are not allowed to say that men are not women. Again: more thought needed here.

States shall:

… b)     Take all necessary legislative, administrative and other measures to fully respect and legally recognise each person’s self-defined gender identity;


It’s bonkers.

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