All across South Asia people face violations of their rights based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.
SAHRA (South Asian Human Rights Association of people marginalised because of their sexualities & gender identity/expression) is an initiative with a mandate to systematically document human rights violations against sexual and gender minorities in the South Asian region, to respond to these violations and to strongly advocate for an increase in the recognition, protection and promotion of human rights.
SAHRA will not replace, but build on the rights work already taking place in the region. SAHRA will strengthen the capacity of member organisations and groups in documenting and responding to human rights violations.
More specifically, there are at least five reasons for SAHRA to monitoring, fact-finding and documenting human rights violations of LGBTI people:
Providing immediate assistance
In cases of arrest, detention, disappearance, torture and similar situations, the victims and their relatives may seek assistance from human rights organisations. Assistance can take the form of trying to establish the whereabouts of the victim in various police stations, military camps or other detention centres, and to ascertain the safety of the detainee, or of filing a petition for habeas corpus. Establishment and verification of the facts surrounding such violations are of vital importance to provide assistance to the victims.
Seeking redress and remedies
A common reason for finding the facts about human rights violations is to obtain redress for the victims or to seek justice regarding perpetrators through legal action. Monitoring and documenting human rights violations ultimately seek to ensure that human rights violations do not go unnoticed and unpunished. In addition, the facts are needed to seek medical and other relief and rehabilitation for the victims.
Research on human rights violations is also undertaken with the aim of changing laws and practices of a country to ensure that these are consistent with international standards and of putting pressure on governments to comply with their treaty obligations. Such an objective cannot be achieved without accurate data, unbiased assumptions and linking these to international standards.
Changing behaviour and attitudes of authorities
Human rights activists also aim to influence or change the behaviour, attitudes and thinking regarding human rights of officials such as policy-makers, judges, local chiefs, military, security and police officials, etc. Convincing those in power to respect human rights is often not an easy task, but will be more effective if it is based on accurate and unbiased information.
Raising public awareness
Publication of human rights violations is also meant to raise awareness among the public to mount protests against violations, but also to prevent further violations. It can also be used to attract international attention with the aim of stopping violations. Again, to be effective the publication should be based on information that meets the standards mentioned above.
The idea of a documentation centre was conceived by a group of 20 rights activist from Nepal, India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Pakistan at a regional meeting in Kathmandu in September 2008. The regional meeting embarked upon the idea of a member organisation with a mandate to systematically document human rights violations against sexual and gender minorities in the South Asian region, to respond to these violations and to strongly advocate for an increase in the recognition, protection and promotion of human rights.
You can read more about the vision and mission of SAHRA in the Concept Note, downloadable from this website. The Concept Note is presently available in English, Bengali, Hindi, and Nepali.
SAHRA believes in the inherent right to dignity, security, equal opportunity and freedom of all people regardless of their sexual orientations and gender identities and expressions. It envisages a world where every LGBTI person enjoys the human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and as expressed in the Yogyakarta Principles (www.yogyakartaprinciples.org).
SAHRA’s mission is to protect, promote and fulfil the human rights of LGBTI persons and their defenders in South Asia by strengthening the impact and influence of organisations, advocates and movements working to advance the rights of LGBTI persons in the region; and by holding the States accountable to these rights.
SAHRA will work towards ensuring that LGBTI issues are integral to human rights and social justice in South Asia at regional, national and local levels. SAHRA believes that an enabling environment is fundamental to the realization of human rights. The mandate of SAHRA will be: to document human rights violations of LGBTIs, to respond to these violations, to strongly advocate for all activities needed that will increase the recognition, protection and promotion of human rights.
In arriving at the scope and a full understanding of its mandate, SAHRA will be guided by the Yogyakarta Principles. An excerpt from the Introduction to the Principles follows: “Human rights violations targeted toward persons because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity constitute a global and entrenched pattern of serious concern. They include extra-judicial killings, torture and ill treatment, sexual assault and rape, invasions of privacy, arbitrary detention, denial of employment and education opportunities, and serious discrimination in relation to the enjoyment of other human rights. These violations are often compounded by experiences of other forms of violence, hatred, discrimination and exclusion, such as those based on race, age, religion, disability, or economic, social or other status.”