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National Human Rights Commission of Korea Chairperson’s Statement on the IDAHOBIT
Date : 2024.05.28 15:40:08 Hits : 190

National Human Rights Commission of Korea Chairperson’s Statement on the IDAHOBIT 


Recent Trend in National and Local Government Responses to Issues of Gender Minorities Alarming…No Intolerance and Hate Can Be Tolerated


Homosexuality used to be treated as a mental illness. It was not until May 17, 1990 that the World Health Organization (WHO) finally removed homosexuality from the list of mental disorders it recognized. The International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT) began to celebrate that historic decision. It is a day where the international community at large remembers its commitment to not tolerating any discrimination, stigmatization, or hate to which gender minorities have so long been subjected.


Discrimination and hate violate the dignity of the minorities that they target. Members of these minorities are forced to live in constant self-censorship, terror, and frustration, often undergoing self-denial and self-denigration. According to the National Survey on Hate and Discrimination against Transgenders that the NHRCK conducted in 2020, 81.4 percent or 480 of the 590 respondents reported having been diagnosed with or treated for depression and panic disorders in the preceding 12 months.


The UN Human Rights Committee has advised the Korean government not to tolerate any attempts at stigmatization and discrimination, including hateful expressions and violence, on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The Korean government has yet to produce an official response to the advice. The Fourth National Human Rights Policy Masterplan 2023-2027, unveiled on March 26, 2024, conspicuously lacks measures to protect the human rights of gender minorities.


Meanwhile, the legislatures of Chungcheongnam-do and Seoul Metropolitan City have recently abolished their respective Ordinances for the Human Rights for Students in response to claims that such ordinances foster homosexuality and confusion over gender identity among students. Some elementary, middle, and high schools in Gyeonggi-do have also removed 2,500 or so copies of 67 books over complaints from certain organizations that those books encourage homosexuality, despite the decision from the Publication Ethics Committee of the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism that the named books do not constitute intellectual or moral harm to children. These recent actions by local governments and authorities are quite alarming as they reflect a determination to refuse gender minorities their rightful place in our society.


There have also been a few hopeful signs of progress in Korea, including a decision by the Seoul High Court in February 2023 that recognized the common-law same-sex spouse of a plaintiff as eligible for registration as the plaintiff’s dependant in matters of National Health Insurance. The Yeongdong branch of the Cheongju District Court also decided, in April 2024, that plaintiffs may petition for a change of sex on their official records without having undergone gender-affirming surgery. The NHRC has been supporting these developments, most recently by advising the Supreme Court of Korea to amend its Internal Rules on Granting Sex Change so that the rules will better respect human rights.


Discrimination and hate should not have any place in our society. We ought to uphold the fundamental principles of democracy—namely, the dignity of all human beings, diversity, and human rights. That is the uncompromisable duty that every one of us bears as a citizen. The NHRC will continue to strive to protect the rights of gender minorities in Korea.


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