The Toonen Decision: Domestic and International Impact
Forthcoming in International Lawfare & Sexual and Reproductive Rights (edited by Siri Gloppen and Malcolm Langford)
36 Pages Posted: 3 Nov 2017
Date Written: November 2, 2017
It is frequently assumed that quasi-judicial decisions of human rights treaty monitoring bodies do not have a significant impact on state practice. Yet if these decisions provide a political and symbolic resource in domestic and international politics, there might be room for increased optimism. In this chapter, we investigate the effects of the 1994 Toonen decision of the UN Human Rights Committee (HRC). We find that the case had a partly transformative effect on LGBT politics in the respondent state — Australia — but that the impact of that communications procedure was contingent (compared to levels of compliance with other HRC decisions against Australia). Turning to the international arena, we find that the Toonen decision most likely sparked greater attention by primarily (although not exclusively) Western states on LGBT issues before the HRC. However, subsequent state reporting to the Committee has dealt primarily with non-discrimination and not with de-criminalization of homosexual relations specifically.
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