UN issues first resolution condemning discrimination against gay people
Human rights council narrowly votes to protect rights of gay people, despite opposition from Islamic and African members
Thousands of people take part in the annual Gay Pride parade in Tel Aviv, this month.
The United Nations issued its first condemnation of discrimination against gay, lesbian and transgender people on 17 June 2011, in a cautiously-worded declaration hailed by supporters including the US as a historic moment.
Members of the UN human rights council narrowly voted in favour of the resolution put forward by South Africa, against strong opposition from African and Islamic countries.
"You just witnessed a historic moment at the human rights council and within the UN system with a landmark resolution protecting human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people," the US representative to the UNHCR, Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe, told reporters after the vote.
Couched in delicate diplomatic language, the resolution commissions a study of discrimination against gay men and lesbians around the world, the findings of which will be discussed by the Geneva-based council at a later meeting.
The proposal went too far for many of the council's 47-member states, including Russia, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria and Pakistan.
Speaking on behalf of the powerful Organisation of the Islamic Conference, Pakistan's ambassador to the UN in Geneva said the resolution had "nothing to do with fundamental human rights".
"We are seriously concerned at the attempt to introduce to the United Nations some notions that have no legal foundation," Zamir Akram said.
Nigeria claimed the proposal went against the wishes of most Africans. A diplomat from the north-west African state of Mauritania said it was "an attempt to replace the natural rights of a human being with an unnatural right".
The resolution passed with 23 votes in favour and 19 against, with three abstentions, including that of China. Backers included the US, the European Union, Brazil and other Latin American countries.
"If you look at the history of human rights and the ever-expanding circle of who counts as human, every time that circle has expanded there have been those that have dissented and in every case they have been proven wrong over time," Daniel Baer, a US deputy assistant secretary, said after the vote.
Baer told reporters the administration of Barack Obama had chosen what he described as a "course of progress" on gay rights, both domestically and internationally. In March, the US issued a non-binding declaration in favour of gay rights that gained the support of more than 80 countries at the UN.
This has coincided with domestic efforts to end the ban on gay people openly serving in the US military and discrimination against them in federal housing.
Asked what good the resolution would do for gay and lesbian people in countries that opposed the resolution, Baer said it was a signal "that there are many people in the international community who stand with them, and who support then, and that change will come".
"It's a historic method of tyranny to make you feel that you are alone," he said. "One of the things that this resolution does for people everywhere, particularly LGBT people everywhere, is remind them that they are not alone."
U.N. Approves Resolution Against Anti-Gay Discrimination
The United Nations on Friday voted by 23-19 vote with 3 abstentions to approve a historic resolution firmly condemning discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.
Presented by South Africa, the resolution affirms that member nations' commitments to human rights include combating discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. It also notes "grave concerns” over violence perpetrated on the grounds of sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
The resolution says:
Recalling the universality, interdependence, indivisibility and interrelatedness of human rights as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and consequently elaborated in other human rights instruments such as the international Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and other relevant core human rights instruments;
Recalling also that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirms that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights and that everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in that Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth, or other status;
Recalling further GA resolution 60/251 which states that the human rights Council shall be responsible for promoting universal respect for the protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, without distinction of any kind and in fair and equal manner;
Expressing grave concern at acts of violence and discrimination, in all regions of the world, committed against individuals because of their sexual orientation and gender identity.
The resolution also determines the following actions:
- Requests the High Commissioner for Human Rights commission a study to be finalised by December 2011, to examine, in all regions of the world, discriminatory laws, practices and acts of violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity, and how international human rights law can be used to combat this;
- Calls for a committee to be created to aid the High Commissioner in "constructive, informed and transparent dialogue” on anti-LGBT laws, and that the panel should also discuss how to continue to follow this issue and implement the recommendations made by the study commissioned by the High Commissioner;
- Finally, the resolution "Decides to remain seized with this priority issue.”
African and Islamic nations who voted against the measure reportedly slammed its passage, with the AP quoting opposition forces led by Nigeria and Pakistan saying the resolution is "nothing to do with fundamental human rights.”
The voting tally as reported by ILGA Europe appears below:
"Yes”: Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, Cuba, Ecuador, France, Guatemala, Hungary, Japan, Mauritius, Mexico, Norway, Poland, Republic of Korea, Slovakia, Spain, Switzerland, Ukraine, Thailand, UK, USA, Uruguay.
"No”: Angola, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Cameroon, Djibouti, Gabon, Ghana, Jordan, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, Moldova, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Uganda.
Abstentions: Burkina Faso, China, Zambia
Absent: Kyrgyzstan, Libya (suspended)
UN resolve to document LGBT discrimination welcomed
The decision by the United Nations Human Rights Council to document discrimination against LGBT persons has been welcomed by equality groups.
A statement from the UN last week said that the Council requested the High Commissioner initiate a study to be completed by December "to document discriminatory laws and practices and acts of violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity, in all regions of the world, and how international human rights law could be used to end violence and related human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity."
The resolution was passed narrowly by 23 states to 19 with three abstentions. The motion expressed "grave concern at acts of violence and discrimination, in all regions of the world, committed against individuals because of their sexual orientation and gender identity."
The Rev Sharon Ferguson, Chief Executive of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement (LGCM), commented: "This is very good news indeed for people around the world whose sexual orientation in itself is enough to put their lives at risk. Obviously it won't end discrimination and the very real threat of death that many LGBT people face but it draws a clear line for the first time and says that the world is watching.”
LGCM added that it "notes with deep concern and sadness", however, that the nations that voted against the resolution did so very largely from religious convictions about homosexuality, whether these be Christian or Muslim beliefs.
Ms Ferguson added: "We cannot deny the deeply worrying, though entirely expected, rejection of the resolution by nations whose attitudes to LGBT people are based on religious understandings of human sexuality and relationships. We continue to work and pray with other LGBT faith-based organisations to challenge such hatred and bigotry which is not in accord with the deepest principles of either Christianity or Islam.”
UK Gay Humanist Charity Welcomes UN Human Rights Resolution
The UK gay Humanist charity the Pink Triangle Trust has warmly welcomed the passing by the UN Human Rights Council of a resolution concerning sexual orientation.
Passed in mid June 2011, the motion expressed "grave concern at acts of violence and discrimination, in all regions of the world, committed against individuals because of their sexual orientation and gender identity."
It also established a formal U.N. process to document human rights abuses against gays, including discriminatory laws and acts of violence. It was passed by a narrow majority of 23 to 19 with 3 abstentions, Nigeria claimed the resolution went against the wishes of most Africans. Mauritania called the resolution "an attempt to replace the natural rights of a human being with an unnatural right”. Speaking on behalf of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, Pakistan's envoy to the U.N. in Geneva said: "I am seriously concerned at the attempt to introduce to the United Nations some notions that have no legal foundation”.
Commenting on the resolution the PTT Secretary George Broadhead said: "This marks a major step forward in the worldwide campaign for LGBT rights. Congratulations are due to South Africa for proposing it and the twenty three nations who voted for it.
It is highly significant, however, that the main opposition to the resolution came from African counties like Nigeria and Uganda in which religious-based homophobia is rife and Muslim countries like Bangladesh, Bahrain, Djibouti, Jordan, Maldives, Malaysia, Mauritania, Pakistan, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.This is reminiscent of the staunch opposition of Muslim states to the repeated attempts made by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) to be granted NGO consultative status at the UN, and clearly demonstrates the serious obstacle that Islam puts in the way of LGBT rights.”