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

See all articles by Malcolm Langford

Malcolm Langford

University of Oslo, Faculty of Law, Department of Public and International Law

Cosette D. Creamer

University of Minnesota - Twin Cities - Department of Political Science; University of Minnesota - Twin Cities - School of Law; Harvard University - Department of Government; Boston University School of Law

Date Written: November 2, 2017

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

Langford, Malcolm and Creamer, Cosette D., The Toonen Decision: Domestic and International Impact (November 2, 2017). Forthcoming in International Lawfare & Sexual and Reproductive Rights (edited by Siri Gloppen and Malcolm Langford). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3063850 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3063850

Malcolm Langford (Contact Author)

University of Oslo, Faculty of Law, Department of Public and International Law ( email )

P.O. Box 6706 St. Olavs plass
N-0130 Oslo
Norway

Cosette D. Creamer

University of Minnesota - Twin Cities - Department of Political Science ( email )

1414 Social Sciences
267 19th Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55455
United States

University of Minnesota - Twin Cities - School of Law ( email )

229 19th Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55455
United States

Harvard University - Department of Government ( email )

1737 Cambridge St
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Boston University School of Law ( email )

765 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, MA 02215
United States

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