Rome Newsroom, Jul 9, 2020 / 08:15 am
A Holy See diplomat raised concern at the United Nations in Geneva this week over the use of the term “gender identity” within the UN’s refugee protection categories.
“The categories ‘sexual orientations’ and ‘gender identity,’ used in the text, find no clear and agreed definition in international law and risk the introduction of new forms of discriminatory categories within the international humanitarian community,” Archbishop Ivan Jurkovič told the UN High Commissioner for Refugees executive committee July 7.
“The inclusion of these terms is not necessary to ensure that anyone seeking protection because of persecution, for any reason, receives protection,” he said.
Jurkovič serves as the Holy See’s permanent observer to the UN and other international organizations in Geneva. He told the UN refugee committee that the Holy See delegation wished to place on record its disagreement with an assertion within the UNHCR’s “Note on International Protection” which stated: “refugee law now recognizes that those facing persecution on the grounds of age, gender and sexual orientation or gender identity may be refugees.”
The Holy See has repeatedly raised this concern for more than a decade regarding the use of the terms “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” in UN statements, arguing that they have no “clear and agreed definition in international law.”
In 2008, the Holy See delegation at the UN General Assembly stated that the UN Declaration on Human Rights, Sexual Orientation, and Gender Identity provided “rightful condemnation of and protection from all forms of violence against homosexual persons,” while adding that “the document, when considered in its entirety, goes beyond this goal and instead gives rise to uncertainty in the law and challenges existing human rights norms.”
Jurkovič underscored in his remarks this week that “as the traditional distinctions among categories of people on the move are increasingly blurred ... The primary and rightful concern should be to protect and promote the fundamental rights and human dignity of those who are forcibly displaced, regardless of their status.”
“However, to ensure the relevance and effectiveness of interventions related to protection, assistance, and durable solutions, it is critical that the UNHCR maintains a holistic and integrated approach to its activities. This is the only way to ensure that all those who are in need of protection receive it, and to avoid the risk of stigmatizing particular individuals or populations, whether they be from majority or minority communities,” he said.