UN Member States call on Azerbaijan to protect the rights and freedoms of LGBTI+s

On November 14, 2023, the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) mechanism of the UN Human Rights Council held its fourth periodic assessment of the human rights situation in Azerbaijan. The Azerbaijani delegation was led by Samir Sharifov, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Azerbaijan.

During the review, six countries made 11 recommendations regarding the recognition, protection, and promotion of fundamental rights and freedoms of the LGBTI+ community in Azerbaijan. Compared to the results of the 3rd UPR cycle, which took place in 2018, this time there is an increase in the number of LGBTI+-focused specific recommendations. 

Recommending States urged the government of Azerbaijan to take legal and administrative measures on a range of issues concerning the rights and freedoms of the LGBTI+s, some being more broad and some more specific. 

Commenting on these recommendations, Javid Nabiyev, Senior Advocacy Officer of the Nafas LGBTI Azerbaijan Alliance, said that

recommendations mostly point out to the necessity of enhancing anti-discrimination legal framework, in particular recognizing sexual orientation and gender identity amongst the protected grounds. In more specific recommendations, Azerbaijan was called to introduce a transparent self-identification process for legal gender recognition free from medical or diagnostic requirements. Concerning harmful practices, Azerbaijan was recommended to make legislative and administrative changes for banning conversion therapies, and “corrective” medical surgeries on intersex children. As to ensuring access to justice for LGBTI+s, Azerbaijan was called to carry out educational programs and awareness-raising campaigns, building the capacity of the judicial and police apparatus in particular for better responding to hate speech and hate crimes committed against the LGBTI+s.

Nabiyev also added that

this stage of the process, which is very significant in the context of highlighting human rights violations against LGBTI+ people and calling for improvement, has successfully concluded for our community. As Nafas, we take pride in our contribution to achieving this outcome by participating in the 4th cycle of the UPR process of Azerbaijan (see the advocacy paper) and we thank other community initiatives and colleagues who have dedicated their efforts to the same cause.

It should be noted that the cycle is still ongoing. Over the next three months, the Azerbaijani government will review all the recommendations and announce which ones it will accept and which ones it will not.

All recommendations are as follows:

– Adopt a comprehensive law to prevent and eliminate discrimination, including that motived by sexual orientation and gender identity.

– Include in legislation sexual orientation and gender identity as a ground for protection from discrimination.

– Adopt broad antidiscrimination law, which covers discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and sex characteristics.

– Adopt legislative measures to combat acts of violence and discrimination against the LGBTI+ community and adopt measures to ensure that such acts are investigated and punished. Moreover, move forward with measures in the area of gender identity and civil rights in respect of unions of same-sex adults.

– Ensure the rights and freedoms of LGBTQİ+ persons, protect from all forms of violence and discrimination.

– Amend the Family Code to include all forms of families, including same-sex couples; 
– Introduce a transparent self-identification process for legal gender recognition free from medical or diagnostic requirements; 
– Ban conversion therapies; 
– Respect intersex children’s rights to self-determination and ban unnecessary surgeries.

– Develop educational and awareness-raising campaigns, and conduct training for the judicial and police apparatus in particular, with a view to improving their capacity for better responding to hate speech and hate crimes on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and sex characteristics.

Report: UPR 4th Cycle of Azerbaijan

The present report is prepared for the 4th cycle of the Universal Periodic Review of Azerbaijan to take place at the 44th session of the United Nations’ Human Rights Council, 6-17 November 2023. The report was submitted jointly with Eurasian Coalition for Health, Rights, Gender and Sexual Diversity.

The report highlights several areas of concern regarding Azerbaijan’s compliance with its international human rights obligations, in relation to violence and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer (LGBTIQ) community, including bias-motivated speeches and crimes, as well as threats and attacks against LGBTIQ human rights defenders and activists, with respect to rights to non-discrimination, freedom of expression, freedom of peaceful assembly and privacy.

The issues raised in the report were selected due to their importance, urgency, and widespread nature. The cases used in the paper are mainly based on the data collected by Nafas and can be acknowledged as first-hand and reliable information.