Exploring the Structures of Gender ‘written into’ the Yogyakarta Principles on the Application of International Human Rights Law in relation to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (2007)
Assoc Prof Alice Miller
Abstract: The Yogyakarta Principles, drafted by a group of human rights experts and activists, aim to provide authoritative guidance to states about their existing human rights obligations in relation to sexual orientation and gender identity. The Principles have been widely cited by international human rights experts and treaty bodies, although many states have questioned their validity. Our interest is in the treatment of ‘gender’ in the document. The concept of gender has long been the subject of contestation between states – a history that seems to have been forgotten in the idea of ‘gender identity’. As a result, the Principles threaten to stymie the unfinished journey, from biological determinism to recognizing that sex/gender is given meaning largely (if not wholly) by social processes and practices, by treating ‘gender identity’ as if it is an inherent human characteristic (ie biologically determined). They also, problematically, confine the applicability of the term to transgendered people, rather than recognizing that everyone has a ‘gender identity’. Our research aims to challenge the siloing practices in human rights advocacy and scholarship that lead to such conflicting outcomes and, in particular, offer a queer feminist perspective on the Yogyakarta Principles and a strategy for their further development – and beyond - which would unpack the potential of gender as a tool of analysis and rights application for everyone.
Alice Miller is an Associate Professor (Adjunct) of Law at Yale Law School and the Co-Director of the Global Health Justice Partnership, Ali’s research and advocacy in the fields of gender, sexuality, health and international human rights, has been highly influential. Her visit to IILAH/MLS is funded by the MLS’s Collaborative Research Find.