UN Appoints First Independent Expert On Anti-LGBT Discrimination And Violence

"Anyone coming into this role is faced with a monumental task."

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.

UN HEADQUARTERS, NEW YORK, NY, UNITED STATES - 2016/02/22: Commission member Vitit Muntarbhorn addresses the General Assembly. Members of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria including Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, Chair of the Commission, and Commission member Vitit Muntarbhorn delivered one of the Commissions periodic reports to an informal meeting of the United Nations General Assembly at UN Headquarters in New York City. (Photo by Albin Lohr-Jones/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Albin Lohr-Jones/Pacific Press/LightRocket

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.

ISTANBUL TURKEY - JUNE 23: (TURKEY OUT) Gay and human rights activists chant slogans during anti-government protests on Istiklal Street, the main shopping corridor on June 23, 2013 in Istanbul, Turkey. The protest began in late May over the Gezi Park redevelopment project but swiftly turned into a protest and street party aimed at Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and what protestors call his increasingly authoritarian rule. The protest has spread to dozens of cities in Turkey, in secular anger against Mr. Erdogan and his Islam-rooted Justice and Development Party. (Photo by Burak Kara/Getty Images)
Burak Kara/Getty Images

“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.”

For more on international LGBT issues visit Logo’s Global Ally page.

h/t: OutRight International

Dan Avery is a writer-editor who focuses on culture, breaking news and LGBT rights. His work has appeared in Newsweek, The New York Times, Time Out New York, The Advocate and elsewhere.