Esteemed human rights activist Vitit Muntarbhorn has been named the first-ever independent investigator on “protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity” by the United Nations Human Rights Council.
He will have a three-year mission to investigate abuses against LGBTI people in member countries.
Muntarbhorn, who was born in Thailand, is an international law professor at the Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok. He has worked for the UN as a commissioner for inquiries in Syria and as a special rapporteur on North Korea.
He has worked against sex trafficking and child pornography, and in 2004, was awarded UNESCO’s Prize for Human Rights Education.
“His past experiences… means that he knows the ropes and how to leverage the system already,” says Anjana Suvarnananda, founder of Thailand’s first LGBT rights organization.
Muntarbhorn faces particular challenges as multiple member nations overtly oppose LGBT rights. In fact, the creation of the independent expert position nearly derailed by objections from Saudi Arabia and other Muslim nations.
“Anyone coming into this role is faced with a monumental task to understand different cultural contexts and to recognize the diversity in issues impacting the LGBTIQ communities across the world,” added Suvarnananda.
“This cannot be done alone. It is the role of activists to work with the Independent Expert to ensure that our issues are accurately understood.”
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