A week after nations criticized a United Nations (UN) special rapporteur for exceeding his mandate in order to push a redefinition of the term “gender” and a controversial “gay rights” document known as the Yogyakarta Principles, a second special report – this time on health – is sparking similar concern.
Presented to the UN General Assembly late last month, “The Right of Everyone to the Enjoyment of the Highest Attainable Standard of Physical and Mental Health” by special rapporteur Anand Grover references not only the Yogyakarta Principles, but also a hotly-disputed “General Recommendation” by the Committee monitoring compliance with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. General Recommendation 20 would read a new non-discrimination category based on “sexual orientation and gender identity” into that treaty, even though UN member states have repeatedly rejected inclusion of such a category in any binding international law document.
Critics see a coordinated push to promote the Yogyakarta Principles, injecting it into the UN system via repeated reference and thus create an impression that a “soft law” norm exists. The Yogyakarta Principles purport to “reflect the existing state of human rights law” with regard to sexual orientation and gender identity, yet merely reflect the policy predilections of the roughly 30 self-selected experts, activists and UN bureaucrats who crafted them. Indeed, terms such as “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” are not defined in any binding international law document and would likely never be accepted by UN Member States.
The specific Principles referred to in the Grover report are Principles 17 and 18. Although the context references informed consent regarding medical procedures among “vulnerable groups,” the text of Principles 17 and 18 contain several controversial mandates. Principle 17 would require states to “Facilitate access by those seeking body modifications related to gender reassignment” (i.e., “sex change” operations), while Principle 18 would require that states “Ensure that any medical or psychological treatment or counseling does not, explicitly or implicitly, treat sexual orientation and gender identity as medical conditions to be treated, secured or suppressed.” Such a mandate would deny someone struggling with sexual disorders the option of receiving reparative therapy.
Grover is an activist attorney from India who litigated the case that resulted in a lower court ruling this past summer that India’s anti-sodomy law violated the nation’s constitution. Last year he succeeded Paul Hunt – one of thirty Yogyakarta draftsmen – as special rapporteur on health.
Grover is further credited with having helped draft the International Guidelines on Human Rights and HIV/AIDS, a 1996 document reissued in 2002 that calls for the repeal of “Criminal law prohibiting sexual acts (including adultery, sodomy, fornication and commercial sexual encounters) between consenting adults in private” – a step critics point out would fuel the spread of HIV/AIDS.
Grover’s appointment as health rapporteur was welcomed by activist organizations such as the International HIV/AIDS Alliance. The group, which promotes “community action on AIDS in developing countries,” noted at the time that “Anand has passionately advocated for the rights of sex workers, drug users and men who have sex with men,” calling the appointment “a tremendous opportunity and a step in the right direction.”