U.N. Report Says Counterterrorism Measures 'Risk Unduly Penalizing Transgender Persons'

October 19, 2009 - 3:53 PM
In a report awaiting approval by the United Nations General Assembly, U.N. Special Rapporteur Martin Scheinin said that counter-terrorism measures "risk unduly penalizing transgender persons."
Gaddafi, UNGA 2009

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi prepares to address the United Nations in New York on September 23, 2009, 40 years after the coup that brought him to power. (U.N. Photo by Evan Schneider)

(CNSNews.com) – A report by U.N. Special Rapporteur Martin Scheinin that is awaiting approval by the United Nations General Assembly says that security measures taken to detect terrorists "risk unduly penalizing transgender persons whose personal appearance and data are subject to change.”

The report, which was issued August 3, places emphasis on "persons of diverse sexual orientation and gender identities" and recommends that counterterrorism operations be more sensitive to gender issues.
 
On page 19 the report says: “Enhanced immigration controls that focus attention on male bombers who may be dressing as females to avoid scrutiny make transgender persons susceptible to increased harassment and suspicion.”
 
Just a few sentences later, Scheinin writes that “counter-terrorism measures that involve increased travel document security, such as stricter procedures for issuing, changing and verifying identity documents, risk unduly penalizing transgender persons whose personal appearance and data are subject to change.”

“This,” he claims, “jeopardizes the right of persons of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities to recognition before the law” 

Frank Gaffney, founder and president of the Center for Security Policy, blasted the report in an interview with CNSNews.com

“It strikes me as a parody of U.N. political correctness and sexual universality,” Gaffney said, “and it’s just hard for me to believe that anybody thinks that these notions actually should trump security concerns - as I think it’s only too clear that … the people who are trying to blow us up have absolutely no use for any of these sexual proclivities.”

Gaffney also pointed out that terrorists “would be only too delighted to take advantage – indeed we’ve seen them taking advantage - of burqas and other subterfuges to disguise their malign intents.”

The report also takes aim at perceived gender roles, suggesting that counter-terror practices involving both sexes be reevaluated due to their basis in traditional perceptions of gender. 
 
One passage, beginning on page 13, says that “the United Kingdom anti-radicalization initiatives seeking to include Muslim women as counter-terrorism agents on the basis of their position ‘at the heart not only of their communities but also of their families,’ may reinforce stereotypical gender norms about roles of women within the family.”

“Instead,” Scheinin writes, “participation should be grounded on principles of gender equality, recognizing the unique gendered impacts of both terrorism and counter-terrorism measures.”
 
Scheinin also slams the use of women’s rights as a justification for counter-terror operations, writing on page 14 that “counter-terrorism measures that are characterized as being a fight for women’s rights (such as the United States portrayal of its “war on terror” in Afghanistan in 2001) should be closely scrutinized, to ensure that they are not misinformed by gender-cultural stereotypes and are actually responsive to the concerns of women and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex individuals in local contexts.”
 
The use of masculine gender roles in counterterrorism draws Scheinin’s ire on page 18, where he writes that “techniques that seek to evoke feelings of emasculation in detainees or suspected terrorists may hinder the fight against terrorism by provoking hyper-masculine responses that include acceptance or advocacy of violence.”
 
Steven Groves, a fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation, expressed a lack of surprise at the report, saying that it was comparable with Scheinin’s past work for the UN and typical of the UN Human Rights Council.
 
“Instead of the Human Rights Council focusing how the human rights of people who are blown apart by terrorists impact people’s human rights,” Groves said, “they created a new office for someone to go and make sure that the terrorists’ human rights, and the human rights of almost everyone else – except for the victims of terrorism - are being protected, and so that is (Scheinin’s) mission.”
 
“That he would stray into some wrong-headed report about gender stereotypes as part of his mandate on counterterrorism isn’t a surprise to me,” Groves continued, “this is the way that the United Nations and the Human Rights Council work.”
 
Still, Frank Gaffney was flabbergasted by Scheinin’s report, saying, “I find this truly absurd and appalling.”
 
The report is currently pending approval by the U.N. General Assembly, and CNSNews.com has reported that social conservatives are mounting a campaign against it due to its redefinition of gender.