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VIDEO: The mysterious power of an international transgender declaration that no one has ever heard of

Why are the Yogyakarta Principles so influential?


Russian feminist Anna Zobnina’s excellent summary of the Yogyakarta Principles at a recent seminar.

The reasons for the rapid conquest by transgender activists of the media, universities, government departments and woke corporations are mysterious. Is it cultural? Psychological? Philosophical? Legal?

Without being a complete explanation, one reason is widespread acceptance of the Yogyakarta Principles. Amnesty USA describes them as “a universal guide to applying international human rights law” to LGBT issues. A leading German NGO, the Heinrich Böll Stiftung, describes them as “a groundbreaking document, extensively used since by human rights mechanisms and advocates” and Human Rights Watch has praised them as “a milestone for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender rights”.

America’s leading LGBT think tank, the Williams Institute at UCLA, says that “the Yogyakarta Principles are the primary document defining the application of international human rights law with respect to sexual orientation and gender identity.”

But despite scholarly journals often quoting these principles they are not recognised in international human rights law.

The Yogyakarta Principles, promulgated in 2006, addressed lesbian, gay and bisexual rights. In 2017, more principles to accommodate transgender rights were added. These are called the Yogyakarta Principles + 10.

You may have never heard of either document. But trans activists have turned them into powerful propaganda tools for transforming transgender rights into human rights. As an example, a recent submission by Amnesty Australia to a federal government inquiry into religious freedom quotes the Yogyakarta Principles over and over again.

The trouble is, they are not worth the paper they are written on.

The back story

The genesis of the Yogyakarta Principles is a horror story involving several key people, legal strategies and well-organised public relations events around the world, all designed to replace the term “sex” with “gender”.

The site of the first meeting in November 2006, Yogyakarta in Indonesia, was chosen because it was “south of the equator, in a Muslim majority country and in a jurisdiction ruled by a Sultan”. The co-chairs of the meeting were from Thailand and Brazil and representation was carefully selected from outside the West and Latin America, including individuals from Botswana, China, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Nepal, Pakistan, South Africa, Thailand and Turkey. The participants came from only 25 countries.

The original document became the Yogyakarta Principles Plus 10 in 2017. Its new principles included gender expression, sex characteristics, sexual orientation and “gender identity”.

The 2017 document was signed by only 33 people.

Legally inconsequential

What is their legal status? They have none at all. They are just a Christmas shopping list for the transgender lobby.

The Principles have never been accepted by the United Nations. Attempts to make gender identity and sexual orientation new categories of non-discrimination have been repeatedly rejected by the General Assembly, the Human Rights Council and other UN bodies. In fact, a majority of members of the General Assembly opposed any reference to the Yogyakarta Principles as they are seen as being contradictory to the position of the UN Human Rights Council.

Despite its reputation in Australia, the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee has acknowledged that the Yogyakarta Principles have no statutory power in Australia. They have no binding effect in international human rights law either.

Compare this to the legal support that the international community has given to women. The Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) was adopted by the United Nations in 1979 and has been ratified by 189 states (the US being one notable exception).

Australia became a signatory of CEDAW in 1980, but the convention was further empowered by our federal legislature when it was incorporated in its entirety into the Commonwealth legislation enacted to protect and further the rights of women, the Sex Discrimination Act of 1984.

Feminists betrayed

Do feminists support the Yogyakarta Principles? No.

In fact, an international feminist group, the Women’s Human Rights Campaign (WHRC), which includes many well-known academics and feminist activists, is fiercely opposed to them. In their view, the principles are misogynistic and attempt “to make sex a defunct legal category.” The Yogyakarta Principles document is designed to replace “sex”, which is a scientific, biological fact, with “gender identity”, which is a socially constructed fiction, based largely on postmodernist rhetoric and identity politics.

They claim that the popularity of the document is a sign that “we are moving towards a society where sex does not exist”, especially for women and girls. They fear that acceptance of the Yogyakarta Principles will destroy the enormous gains made in past decades by the feminist movement.

Nor has the Yogyakarta Principles project had much popular support. It is largely coordinated by Allied Rainbow Communities, or ARC International (ARC), an NGO based in Canada. In her analysis of the Yogyakarta Principles, feminist Anna Zobnina notes that ARC is basically a lobby group, not an internationally representative organisation.

The WHRC Declaration on Women’s Sex-Based Rights has been signed, as at September 9, by 11,772 individuals and 256 organisations from 119 countries. All supporters of the WHRC are listed on its Declaration page. It is quite transparent.

The ARC website is not transparent. Its latest accounts date from 2016, when it received $407,000 from “membership and donations” in 2016. It also received $275,000 from “foundations” and $71,000 from the Norwegian Foreign Ministry.

The WHRC Facebook page has about 4,000 likes; the ARC page has about 2,500. The WHRC has representatives across at least 25 countries and was established only 18 months ago. The ARC was established 17 years ago.

What’s wrong with the Yogyakarta Principles?

In the Yogyakarta Principles “gender identity” is defined as:

Understanding “gender identity” to refer to each person’s deeply felt internal and individual experience of gender, which may or may not correspond with the sex assigned at birth, including the personal sense of the body (which may involve, if freely chosen, modification of bodily appearance or function by medical, surgical or other means) and other expressions of gender. Including dress, speech and mannerisms.

As noted by American human rights lawyer Tina Minkowitz, “gender itself is not defined, but is situated in relation to “sex assigned at birth”, with which a person’s internal experience of gender may or may not correspond” and the reference to “sex” is only to indicate that it does not refer to personality traits. “Sex” is not defined either.

Alarmingly, for everyone, “YP implicitly accepts a concept of gender as equivalent to stereotypes. When beliefs about mannerisms, dress and speech appropriate to one sex or the other are abstracted and made to serve as a ground for personal identity, they are shielded from challenge.”

This unravels decades of progress for feminists. The notion that an innate feeling can lead to a change in an individual’s sex status at birth, with the corresponding legal entitlements and access to spaces and places reserved for girls and women (including their sports), is a violation of the protections established over decades for women, beginning with CEDAW.

As Minkowitz further notes, “It is not gender identity that is being protected, but the substitution of internal identity for recorded sex, upon the request of any person”. The legitimisation of this process is simply creating new forms of discrimination against girls and women and is in conflict with CEDAW.

This is not to say that transgender people should not be protected, but replacing “sex” with “gender identity” not only erases sex as a category and girls and women as a class distinct from that of boys and men, but also erases girls’ and women’s human rights.

A significant, currently relevant, example of the consequences of these changes is given by Minkowitz. She states that women have “little reason to expect their rights will be protected, in (a) law and policy environment that treats their discussion of sex and gender as tantamount to hate speech”.

On the matter of “sex” and “gender”, the CEDAW Committee’s General Recommendation 28 emphasizes that changing one’s gender does not change an individual’s social positioning. Gender identity advocates are naïve to think this is possible; the ideological nature of their claims renders them as fictional as the postmodernist thinking upon which they are based.

Conclusion

In conclusion, there are six fundamental criticisms of the Yogyakarta Principles and its “Plus 10” extensions:

  1. They were constructed by a few unelected, unrepresentative civil groups and individuals;
  2. They have never been adopted by the United Nations;
  3. They have no legal force either internationally or within Australia and were rejected by the Commonwealth legislature and the United Nations;
  4. The Yogyakarta Principles +10 principles were signed by just 33 people;
  5. They are often quoted misleadingly by members of parliament and trans lobby groups as though they had been adopted by UN resolution; and
  6. Their full implementation would effectively make “sex” a defunct legal category, replacing it by the ambiguous category of “gender”.

This content is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International license.

COLUMN BY

Geoff Holloway

Dr Geoff Holloway writes from Hobart. He is a sociologist, poet, author, and Fado fan. His current research interests include domestic violence in Portugal, ecocentrism, Green politics, transgender politics,… 

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EDITORS NOTE: This MercatorNet column is republished with permission. ©All rights reserved.

Government Shouldn’t Decide Who Uses Which Bathroom by Doug Bandow

There’s Simply No Single Right Answer.

The North Carolina legislature voted in March to require that people use the bathroom designated for their biological sex. The state was criticized for violating gay and transgender rights. The Obama administration may cut federal education, housing, and transportation aid to North Carolina in response.

Bathroom use has been an issue in other states, including Illinois, Texas, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Kansas, Missouri, Mississippi, Tennessee, and South Dakota. Legislation proposed and passed differs by state on how to define gender — ranging from chromosomes to birth certificate to anatomical sex. Obviously, people can’t change their chromosomes. They can, however, change their gender identity and its associated physical traits, which is where the controversy begins.

The president’s position appears to be that people have a legal right to use the bathroom of their choice, regardless of their gender, however defined. With the club of federal funding, he is attempting to socially engineer America.

This is central planning run riot.

Good people should approach anyone in the midst of gender change with humility and compassion. For most of us, it is unimaginable what would cause someone to desire to shift genders. It is a personal issue of the most profound nature. It shouldn’t be debated and decided in the public square.

And politicians aren’t doing a good job addressing the question. It may not make sense to most people for someone who looks like a guy to use the ladies room, however he sees himself, but neither does it seem right to force someone who looks like a guy to use the ladies room because he was born female. And it certainly makes no sense to let one person or group of people force everyone else to comply with their preference, even when that group is a majority of voters.

Bathroom use shouldn’t be a question for bureaucrats, politicians, lawyers, or judges to answer.

Who should use which bathroom? If it’s in your home, you decide. Likewise, a private company or other private organization should set the rules for its building. What does the owner want? What do customers or members prefer? What is the best way to balance competing interests given the community’s dominant moral sense?

Most people in most places probably believe that people should use the bathroom that matches their physical characteristics, whether changed or not. And we know from the current debate that many (if not most) people prefer not to share a bathroom with someone who appears to be of the other sex, irrespective of the gender with which he or she identifies.

However, one can imagine a “progressive” individual, business owner, or group deciding otherwise. And whether that decision reflected special solicitude for vulnerable individuals or a desire to shape public attitudes, it would be no cause for complaint.

There’s simply no single right answer — and no justification for government to intervene in such intimate, private decisions.

What about bathrooms in public facilities, such as a government office, school, airport, or military base? These are all theoretically “owned” by everyone. Everyone has a stake in the issue — and thus a “right” of some sort — but there’s no accepted, overarching principle that determines with whom you must share a bathroom. A local majority may need to rule in such cases, but someone will always be unhappy with the result, especially if the relevant decision-makers are far away, protected from the consequences.

For Washington pols to insist that, say, teenage girls in a small town in downstate Illinois accept as a bathroom mate a child who appears to be a boy is an act of extraordinary chutzpah. The girls’ refusal to do so does not necessarily reflect malevolent discrimination; it may simply be an understandable reaction to basic biology. Politicians have no right to impose their particular agenda.

Of course, differing opinions don’t justify ignoring the interests of those in the midst of gender change, whether it involves surgery or not. Access to a bathroom is critical for almost everything people do — going to school, working outside your home, going shopping, and traveling. Some kind of accommodation should be made. But what kind?

Again, there’s no single solution that fits every public establishment, let alone private entity, across the country. Larger buildings could offer more options, such as separate bathrooms, like family-friendly single facilities. Communities and student bodies differ in attitudes and openness. Even those who are transgender may desire different outcomes in different circumstances.

Most important, all participants need to demonstrate understanding and sensitivity. No one of goodwill wants to add to the distress of someone changing gender. At the same time, those going through the process should not try to use government to impose their preference on schoolmates, neighbors, coworkers, and others. People should look for alternatives and compromises to work it out. Compromise, compassion, private property rights, and decentralized decision-making are enough to resolve this issue.

Politicians already control education, manage health care, provide social services, and underwrite businesses — and now they even decide who should use which bathroom. It’s time to return life’s most important decisions to the people. A good place to start would be keeping government out of our bathrooms.

Doug BandowDoug Bandow

Doug Bandow is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and the author of a number of books on economics and politics. He writes regularly on military non-interventionism.

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EDITORS NOTE: Congressman Vern Buchanan (FL-District 16) did an email survey of constituents on the issue of transgender bathrooms. Here is the question and responses as of May 16th, 2016:

Do you support the new Obama administration directive requiring all public schools to allow transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms of their choice?
  • Strongly support
 23.16%
  • Somewhat support
  8.39%
  • Somewhat oppose
  5.59%
  • Strongly oppose
 62.84%