UN Rights Body Passes Historic Resolution on Anti-Gay Violence and Discrimination

Jim Burroway

June 20th, 2011

Following intense negotiations, the United Nations Human Rights Council on Friday voted 23-19 in favor of a declaration 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 LAO calls for a panel discussion next spring with “constructive, informed and transparent dialogue on the issue of discriminatory laws and practices and acts of violence against” gays, lesbians and transgender people.

This resolution marks the first time a UN body has addressed human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and follows a joint statement on these issues delivered at the March session of the council. The resolution was proposed by South Africa, and was joined by 39 additional co-sponsors from around the world. Given that homophobia represents official governmental policy in much of Africa, it was considered crucial that South Africa lead the fight for the resolution. South Africa is the only nation on the continent to provide for marriage equality.

Other co-sponsors, including many states which are not members of the Human Rights Council, included Albania, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Honduras, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, Timor-Leste, United Kingdom, United States, and Uruguay.

The United States, which is not a member of the Human Rights Council, reacted to the vote with this statement after the declaration passed:

“This marks a significant milestone in the long struggle for equality, and the beginning of a universal recognition that LGBT persons are endowed with the same inalienable rights — and entitled to the same protections — as all human beings.”

The full text of the resolution reads as follows:

Human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity

The Human Rights Council

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,

Recallling 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, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth, or other status;

Recalling further General Assembly resolution 60/251 of 15 March 2006, in which the Assembly stated that the Human Rights Council should 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,

1. Requests the High Commissioner to commission a study to be finalized by December 2011, 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 can be used to end violence and related human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity;

2. Decides to convene a panel discussion during the 19th session of the Human Rights Council, informed by the facts contained in the study commissioned by the High Commissioner and to have constructive, informed and transparent dialogue on the issue of discriminatory laws and practices and acts of violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity;

3. Decides also that the panel will also discuss the appropriate follow-up to the recommendations of the study commissioned by the High Commissioner;

4. Decides to remain seized of this priority issue.

States supporting the resolution were 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.

States voting against the resolution were Angola, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Cameroon, Djibouti, Gabon, Ghana, Jordan, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, Moldova, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Uganda. Three states abstained (Burkina Faso, China, Zambia), and Kyrgyzstan’s representative was absent. Libya, who also holds a seat in human rights body without a hint of irony, was also absent, having been suspended over the ongoing uprising.

Lynn David

June 20th, 2011

On reading this it appears that the needed 24 votes might never be attained if all members has voted. Also I wondered if the UN High Commissioner would be of a mind to carry out the investigation for which the resolution calls. Then I remembered that the UN High Commissioner had spoken out against the Ugandan bill. And United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay spoken on hate crimes against lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people.

Kate

June 20th, 2011

It will be interesting to see the scope of the report they are asking for; a review showing the real actions and consequences in every country that voted no would not only be embarrassing, it would expose the systematic persecution of LGBT people around the world.

Bravo, United Nations! But 23-19?? That was way too close for a real celebration. It’s a little step, but hopefully the first of many more.

Kate

June 20th, 2011

I looked up the membership for the HRC, and the United States is listed, but with “2012” after it. Does anyone know what that means?

Stefano A

June 21st, 2011

@ Kate:

After several years of non participation, the US requested to resume it’s membership on the UN Human Rights Council and was elected to the Council in 2009.

Members of the UNHRC are elected to staggered three-year terms. The year 2012 indicates the year in which the US mandate (in the 3-year term) expires.

Stefano A

June 21st, 2011

BTW and just as an FYI:

The resolution which mandated the creation of the Council to replace the old UNHR Commission stated that within 5 years a review and vote had to take place to vote on whether or not to maintain the UNHRC.

On the same day the LGBT Human Rights resolution was passed, the UN General Assembly voted on whether or not to maintain the HRC. The vote to maintain was passed 154 in favor to 4 against, with no abstentions.

The United States voted NO along with Canada, Israel and Palau.

Kate

June 21st, 2011

@Stefano A – WTF? Why would the US and Canada vote AGAINST a Human Rights Commission? Was there something else we wanted?

Stefano A

June 21st, 2011

@ Kate:

See: A/RES/65/281 Review of the Human Rights Council

Timothy Kincaid

June 21st, 2011

The United States voted NO along with Canada, Israel and Palau.

WTF? Why would the US and Canada vote AGAINST a Human Rights Commission?

Just a guess… there is something a bit ironic about having a “human rights council” in which the planet’s biggest human rights violators get to define the issue.

Stefano A

June 21st, 2011

@ TK

Exactly! The larger factor though was a resolution item attacking Israel and no other state that the US wanted removed.

Stefano A

June 21st, 2011

Well, I shouldn’t say the larger issue, as the larger issue is what you mentioned, the systemic lack of balance and the selectivity biases. The same reason the US had refused to participate for years. But the specific issue in this vote was the item #7 attacking Israel.

luiz

June 21st, 2011

there is something a bit ironic about having a “human rights council” in which the planet’s biggest human rights violators

Does he mean the US?

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