Sexual Orientation as a Human Right

Sexual Orientation as a Human Right

Despina A. Tziola
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-1933-1.ch002
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In this chapter, the authors examine the matter of sexual orientation as a human right. Human rights violations take many forms, from denials of the rights to life to discrimination in accessing economic, social, and cultural rights. More than 80 countries still maintain laws that make same-sex consensual relations between adults a criminal offence. Those seeking to peaceably affirm diverse sexual orientations or gender identities have also experienced violence and discrimination. A gay man was entitled to live freely and openly in accordance with his sexual identity under the Refugee Convention (“the Convention”) and it was no answer to the claim for asylum that he would conceal his sexual identity in order to avoid the persecution that would follow if he did not do so. The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom had to solve this complex problem as many issues were raised in the hearing.
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2. Right To Sexual Orientation

Sexual orientation is traditionally defined as including heterosexuality, bisexuality, and homosexuality, while asexuality is considered the fourth category of sexual orientation by some researchers and has been defined as the absence of a traditional sexual orientation (Bogaert, 2004, p. 281). An asexual has little to no sexual attraction to males or females. It may be considered a lack of a sexual orientation, and there is significant debate over whether or not it is a sexual orientation (Melby, 2005, pp. 1, 4–5) (Marshall, 2009, pp. 82–83).

Most definitions of sexual orientation include a psychological component, such as the direction of an individual's erotic desires, or a behavioral component, which focuses on the sex of the individual's sexual partner/s. Some people prefer simply to follow an individual's self-definition or identity. Scientific and professional understanding is that “the core attractions that form the basis for adult sexual orientation typically emerge between middle childhood and early adolescence”. Sexual orientation differs from sexual identity in that it encompasses relationships with others, while sexual identity is a concept of self.

The American Psychological Association states that “[s]exual orientation refers to an enduring pattern of emotional, romantic, and/or sexual attractions to men, women, or both sexes” and that “[t]his range of behaviors and attractions has been described in various cultures and nations throughout the world. Many cultures use identity labels to describe people who express these attractions. In the United States, the most frequent labels are lesbians (women attracted to women), gay men (men attracted to men), and bisexual people (men or women attracted to both sexes). However, some people may use different labels or none at all”. They additionally state that sexual orientation “is distinct from other components of sex and gender, including biological sex (the anatomical, physiological, and genetic characteristics associated with being male or female), gender identity (the psychological sense of being male or female), and social gender role (the cultural norms that define feminine and masculine behavior)”.

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