The issue of LGBT rights has polarized nations at the U.N. for many years. Despite growing acceptance for gay rights in Westernized nations and parts of Latin America, International lawyers say human-rights treaties don’t offer adequate protection against discrimination and mistreatment of LGBT people.
Hailed as a “Historic Moment” the United Nations has finally passed a resolution, which at the very least, aims to let LGBT people know that they are not alone in the struggle for equality. Following tense negotiations, the resolution was narrowly squeaked by in Geneva on Friday (23 in favor to 19 against, including 3 abstentions). South Africa can be thanked for putting the motion forward, which was backed heavily by the United States and championed by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
The cautiously worded declaration 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” and called for a study by the end of the year to examine discrimination against the gay community.” Activists say, it establishes a formal U.N. process to document human rights abuses against gays, including discriminatory laws and acts of violence.
Graeme Reid, director of the LGBT Rights program at Human Rights Watch said, “The Human Rights Council has taken a first bold step into territory previously considered off-limits.” Mr. Reid added, “We hope this groundbreaking step will spur greater efforts to address the horrible abuses perpetrated on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.”
Before next spring, the council called for a panel to discuss a way “to have constructive, informed and transparent dialogue on the issue of discriminatory laws and practices and acts of violence against” gays, lesbians and transgender people.
For many of the council’s member states, the scrutiny of having their laws examined was enough to insight strong public reactions, specifically from the African and Islamic nations of the council. Speaking on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, Pakistan went so far as to say the resolution had “nothing to do with fundamental human rights.” Nigeria claimed the proposal went against the wishes of most Africans. A diplomat from the northwest African state of Mauritania called the resolution “an attempt to replace the natural rights of a human being with an unnatural right.”
US representative to the UNHCR, Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe said, “It is now on the map as a legitimate topic for those concerned about human rights to be raising and reaffirming internationally. We think this is game-changer in terms of changing the culture, at least at the Human Rights Council on the topic of protection for LGBT people. Prior to today, it was almost a taboo topic.”
Giving weight to the councils’ decision, Clinton announced that the U.S. plans to be the anchor on this issue and “will continue to stand up for human rights wherever there is inequality and we will seek more commitments from countries to join this important resolution.”
Canada last held a seat on the council in 2009. The term of each seat on the UNHRC is three years, and no member may occupy a seat for more than two consecutive terms.
The UNHRC states that “members elected to the Council shall uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights.” Here is a list of the Countries that currently occupy the 47-member state elected council, and how they voted:
Backed the resolution:
Opposed the resolution:
Republic of Moldova
Article by Revel and Riot contributor Tammy Bannister.