South Africa’s Graeme Reid named UN LGBTI watchdog


The appointment of Graeme Reid by the UN Human Rights Council was welcomed by several international civil society groups

South African activist, academic, and author Graeme Reid has been named the new United Nations Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI).

This announcement came at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on Friday after considering over 30 candidates. Reid will assume the role on November 1st.

Reid is currently serving as the Director of the LGBT Rights Program at Human Rights Watch in New York. Before joining the organisation in 2011, Reid was the founding director of the Gay and Lesbian Archives (now known as The GALA Queer Archive) at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) and a lecturer in LGBT Studies at Yale University.

Trained as an anthropologist, Reid earned a master’s degree from Wits and a PhD from the University of Amsterdam. He is also the author of How to be a Real Gay: Gay Identities in Small-Town South Africa (2013).

The UN Independent Expert on SOGI is tasked with proposing ways to better protect individuals who face violence and discrimination based on their SOGI.

The role involves assessing the implementation of international human rights standards, engaging with States, and collaborating with other UN and regional mechanisms to address violence and discrimination.

Reid, the third person to hold this position, will succeed the outgoing Independent Expert, Victor Madrigal-Borloz, who has served since 2017.

The appointment marks the conclusion of a months-long application process. Organisations worldwide expressed regret about the lack of women and non-binary individuals in the shortlist of candidates.

Nevertheless, Reid’s appointment was welcomed in a joint statement by several international civil society groups, including ILGA World, Outright International, and the Human Rights Campaign.

These organisations expressed their confidence in Reid’s extensive experience in advocacy and academia, as well as his dedication to listening to the voices of grassroots human rights defenders.

“We trust Reid will be able to further build bridges and remind States of their obligations towards people of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities across the globe,” the groups said.

Since the establishment of the role, the UN expert has globally raised awareness about the impact of criminalising same-sex relations and the absence of affirming legal gender recognition procedures.

The expert has also highlighted the harm caused by so-called ‘conversion therapies’ and emphasised good practices to prevent discrimination.

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