Reflections on Yogyakarta Principles +10

By Zhang Dandan and Cai Yiping*
 
In November 2017, the Yogyakarta Principles Plus 10 (YP+10) was launched by ARC International and the International Service for Human Rights in consultation with experts and civil society stakeholders, as an important supplement to the Yogyakarta Principles by adding nine new principles and 112 additional state obligations. [1] DAWN joins the feminist and human rights groups around the world to celebrate  one more milestone in achieving human rights for all.
 
The Yogyakarta Principles were initiated in 2006, at an expert meeting in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. The document is regarded as a landmark in applying international human rights law to sexual orientation and gender identity, and an authoritative legal tool with which to seek justice and protection.[2]
 
It is groundbreaking that several crucial supplements have been made in YP+ 10 with the increasing visibility of trans and intersex community within the LGBTI movement, the significant developments in international human rights law and jurisprudence on issues relating to sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and sex characteristics (SOGIESC).
 
The term “sex characteristics” is defined in YP+10 as “each person’s physical features relating to sex, including genitalia and other sexual and reproductive anatomy, chromosomes, hormones, and secondary physical features emerging from puberty”. This definition can be applied to everyone, as everyone has some combination of sex characteristics, including both innate and acquired sex characteristics.
 
Although the original Principles mentioned intersex in the preamble and made reference to a range of rights that benefit all people including intersex people, they have had less impact in addressing the specific needs and rights of intersex people. YP+10, however, has recognized that intersex people have distinct needs, characteristics and situations compared to lesbians, gay men, bisexual people and trans people. In addition, by using “sex characteristics” YP+10 promotes better language about what it means to be born with an intersex variation, and recognizes the diversity and does not require that people use the word “intersex” to describe themselves. [3]
 
Principle 32 on the right to bodily and mental integrity recognizes that forced and coercive medical practices violate human rights principles on freedom from torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment as well as violate the right to bodily integrity. Specific claims have also been made in Principle 31 on the right to legal recognition by calling for an end to sex/gender registration for legal identification documents, and Principle 37 on the right to truth, which states that individuals’ right to the truth about their medical histories and access to redress, reparations and restorative treatments should be ensured. A new State Obligation on non-discrimination in relation to prenatal interventions calls for an end to prenatal treatments and genetic selection that discriminate against intersex people on grounds of sex characteristics.
 
Another notable feature of YP+10 is that the additional principles cover a range of rights dealing with information and communication technologies (ICTs), poverty and cultural diversity.This is in alignment with Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as a crucial complement to the original human rights framework.
 
Principle 34 on the right to protection from poverty claims that everyone has the right to protection from all forms of poverty and social exclusion associated with SOGIESC, which echoes SDG 1 “to end poverty in all its forms everywhere”. Poverty is incompatible with respect for the equal rights and dignity of all persons, and can be compounded by discrimination on the grounds of SOGIESC. Principle 34 underlines why “gender-sensitive development strategies”  creating sound policy frameworks at the national, regional and international levels are required.
 
Target 6.2 of SDG 6 aims “to achieve access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all and end open defecation, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situation by 2030”, and Principle 35 on the right to sanitation elaborates further the specific needs of “those in vulnerable situation.” Moreover, state obligations under this Principle include ensuring that there are adequate public sanitation facilities which can be access safely and with dignity by all persons regardless of their SOGIESC in both public and private spaces.
 
ICTs as an efficient method to help achieve Agenda 2030 and several SDG goals have explicitly addressed this, such as Goal 4 on ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all; Goal 5 on achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls; and Goal 9 on building resilient infrastructure to promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation. YP+10 reiterates in Principle 36 the right to the enjoyment of human rights in relation to ICTs and emphasizes the importance of secure digital communications, including the use of encryption, anonymity and pseudonymised tools as essential for the full realisation of human rights, particularly the rights to life, bodily and mental integrity, health, privacy, due process, freedom of opinion and expression, peaceful assembly and association.
 
While celebrating the achievements and remarkable supplements made by YP+10, we still meet challenges and need to overcome obstacles to translate and integrate these principles into policy-making in order to fulfil the human rights of all, regardless of their SOGIESC.  
 
On Principle 38 on right to practise, protect, preserve and revive cultural diversity, for example, how should states apply this principle in the country context where gender stereotypes are persistent and discriminatory practices in various forms prevail in the name of culture? How does this principle correlate with other principles? How should the state meet its obligations related to all these principles as a whole? More in-depth analyses and country cases are needed.
 
The 112 state obligations enumerated in YP+10 provide a comprehensive and universal framework to understand the role of states based on the international legal standards. However, the changing geopolitics, rising power of non-state actors and big corporates and disputes over the global partnerships have greatly undermined the public policy space and the state’s accountability, as revealed in the negotiation of 2030 Agenda and SDGs on the nature of global partnership.[4]  Although the multiple partnerships may introduce civil society to the policy making spaces, it would possibly lead to the marginalization, co-optation of civil society organizations given the unequal power and dynamics in the current pattern of partnership among state, business sectors, UN agencies, and CSOs, mainly from the Global North.
 
YP+10 does not mention 2030 agenda and SDGs, but it is meaningful to explore the relevance and complementarity between the two, since SOGIESC issues cannot be solved without multiple partnerships among different stakeholders and the achievements of diverse rights, especially in tackling the economic structural obstacles associated SOGIESC.
 
*Zhang Dandan is DAWN Associate and Cai Yiping is DAWN Executive Committee member.
 
[2] The Yogyakarta Principles: http://www.yogyakartaprinciples.org/
[4] Jens Martens, “Reclaiming the public(policy) space for the SDGs”, in “Spotlight on Sustainable development 2017,”pp11-18.