Guest post by Tina Minkowitz
Tina Minkowitz is a human rights lawyer who mostly works on the rights of people with disabilities, in particular for the abolition of forced psychiatric interventions. Her LLM thesis Female Autonomy vs Gender Identity: a critical analysis of gender identity in CEDAW jurisprudence and the Yogyakarta Principles is available online and may also be of interest to readers.
As a lesbian, it is important to me that the Declaration on Women’s Sex-Based Rights includes us explicitly.
The Declaration is an initiative by women to argue for our rights as a female sex, oppressed by gender as a system of male supremacy and sex stereotypes. It is designed to counter the ideology of gender identity that maintains sex is irrelevant and only subjective identification with one or another gender matters. This ideology, which harms women and girls by allowing men to access female-only spaces – both physical spaces and symbolic ones – including those created by and for lesbians, has become increasingly influential in human rights discourse.
Lesbians are one of the groups of women most impacted by transgender identity politics. There are no safe public spaces that we can take for granted – in countries where we had won a superficial tolerance, lesbians are being pushed out of our own spaces by men who claim that they are us, and if we do not want to have sex with them we are bigots. We may have marriage equality, but we are caught between resurgent religious fundamentalism on the right, and a demand that we relinquish female-only space – whether bathrooms, showers, dormitories, sports, lesbian chatrooms and dating apps – on the left. We are already marginalized in straight-dominant society, at risk of violence and ostracism for being lesbian or for not fitting the stereotypical patterns of women’s lives, appearance, behavior in a world that expects men to lead and women to serve them.
The Declaration recognizes that rights related to sexual orientation are necessary for lesbians to exercise our rights and says that men’s claims to be lesbians discriminates undermines lesbians’ rights and is a form of discrimination against women.
It specifically calls for the legal use of the term ‘woman’ to mean adult human female, and the term ‘lesbian’ to mean adult human female whose sexual orientation is towards other adult human females; and for the recognition of the rights of lesbians to assemble and associate on the basis of common sexual orientation, without including men who claim to have female ‘gender identities’.
It could have gone further perhaps, to call for women’s sexual autonomy and right to autonomous sexuality explicitly as one of the overarching rights (e.g. sexual integrity, as it does call for reproductive integrity). It also could have addressed lesbians’ existence in violation of sex stereotypes. Nevertheless, it has potential to bring lesbians into human rights discourse on our own terms, for us to expand on this space. There are plans in progress for global consultation that may result in updating or additions, as more women become involved and the Declaration is translated into languages other than English.
The Declaration is not an official document of the United Nations. However, using the language of human rights and making an argument based on UN human rights instruments gives us a basis to advocate to UN mechanisms like the Commission on the Status of Women and the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. This in turn can help to shape global political debates, and those in our own countries.
Read the Declaration at https://www.womensdeclaration.com and consider signing it to show your support.