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Laws concerning homosexuals & bisexuals

Deficiencies in the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights

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Human rights in the world:

UN General Assembly resolution  217 A (III) adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) on 1948-DEC-10.1,2 The UN holds the Guinness World Record for having collected, translated, and disseminated the UDHR into more than 300 languages and dialects, from Abkhaz to Zulu. 3

In the words of Mary Robinson, the High Commissioner for Human Rights:

"This project bears a special symbolism. It immediately brings to us a sense of the world's diversity; it is a rich tapestry with so many different languages and peoples. But, at the same time, it shows that all of us, in our different forms of expression, can speak the "common language of humanity", the language of human rights, which is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights." 3

Unfortunately, the UDHR has at least two serious deficiencies:
bullet It is not universal. Even the governments of the U.S. and Canada have ignored many of its sections with regard to their treatment of racial, cultural, religious, and sexual minorities.
bullet For the first two decades of the UDHR's existence, some states in the U.S. ignored Article 16-1 by criminalizing interracial marriages.
bullet During the George W. Bush administration, the U.S. ignored Article 5 that prohibits torture.
bullet The UDHR was ratified in 1948 when the vast majority of people in the world viewed homosexual orientation as a disordered mental illness and considered homosexual behavior to be a criminal act. Thus the UDHR included no specific reference to sexual orientation.

During the lifetime of the UDHR, there has been a rapid change in North America:
bullet During the 1950s: Evelyn Hooker's (1907-1996) research demonstrated "... that most self-identified homosexuals are no worse in social adjustment than the general population." 4
bullet In 1973, after a lag of two decades, the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders.
bullet In 2003-JUN, the U.S. Supreme Court found that laws in Texas and 15 other states that criminalized private, adult, consensual sex between persons of the same sex were unconstitutional.
bullet In 2004-MAY, same-sex couples were able to marry in Massachusetts.
bullet In 2005-JUL, same-sex couples were able to marry throughout Canada.

However, much of the rest of the world, for religious and other reasons, retain beliefs similar to those in North America during the 1950s.

Because of the status of homosexuality in the 1950s, and the lack of periodic updates to the UDHR, there is no protection in the document for persons of minority sexual orientation or for transsexuals.

If protection is to be provided for homosexuals and transsexuals, there are two obvious places where the UDHR could be amended:
bullet Article 2:

"Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status."

The phrase: "sexual orientation, gender identity" could be added after "sex."

bullet Article 16-1:

"Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family."

The word "gender" could be added after "race."

References used:

The following information source was used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlink is not necessarily still active today.

  1. The UDHR text is at:
  2. The UDHR text is available in other languages at:
  3. "The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is the most universal document in the world," Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, at:
  4. "Evelyn Hooker," Wikipedia, 2009-JAN-31, at:

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Copyright 2009 to 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2011-JUN-18
Author: B.A. Robinson

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