Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Rights Lost in Translation?
Analyzing the UN Member State Disputes on International Human Rights Recognition for Sexual and Gender Minorities
Since 2003, the United Nations international human rights framework has moved notably toward increased international human rights recognition for sexual and gender minorities. Most recently, 2016 saw the adoption of an Independent Expert on violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Motivated by the nevertheless continued refusal by predominantly African and Middle Eastern countries to recognize any such human rights application, as well as postcolonial critiques of counterproductive moral imperialism and homonationalist strategies by proponent member States, this article asks how dynamics of member State disputes in the UN debates on SOGI-based rights may point to restraints and possibilities for achieving global human rights recognition for culturally diverse sexual and gender minorities. The article demonstrates how interand intradiscursive rules of formation in UN member State debates predicated on either universal or culturally relative readings of international human rights law reproduce normative polarization and obstruct national implementation of human rights protection for sexual and gender minorities. The article therefore finds universality truth claims to restrain transformative change, as well as represent a possibility for achieving human rights recognition through “perverse,” reiterations of the parameters of the universal, wielded from an open-ended multiplicity of sexual and gender minority expressions and articulations. A radical politics of top-down and bottom-up cultural translation is suggested as a possible strategy for human rights recognition for culturally diverse sexual and gender minorities.