Wednesday, December 15, 2010

UN vote against sexual orientation protection "shameful"

[With thanks to Vidyarata Kissoon from Guyana who brought this to my attention]

This coming Monday, December 20, the United Nations General Assembly will vote on whether to include protection for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in a crucial resolution on extra-judicial executions and other unlawful killings. For the past 10 years, this resolution has urged states “to investigate promptly and thoroughly all killings, including… all killings committed for any discriminatory reason, including sexual orientation.” It is the only UN resolution to ever include an explicit reference to sexual orientation. Just last month, South Africa voted with a number of states to remove the reference to sexual orientation from this important resolution.

The United Nations voted this week to remove sexual orientation from a resolution calling on countries to protect the life of all people and to investigate extra-judicial, summary or arbitrary executions that are motivated by prejudice and discrimination.

Arab and African nations succeeded in getting a U.N. General Assembly panel to delete from a resolution condemning unjustified executions a specific reference to killings due to sexual orientation.

The UN:


Commenting on the UN vote, gay rights and human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said:

"This is a shameful day in United Nations history. It gives a de facto green light to the on-going murder of LGBT people by homophobic regimes, death squads and vigilantes. They will take comfort from the fact that the UN does not endorse the protection of LGBT people against hate-motivated murder.

"The UN vote is in direct defiance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantees equal treatment, non-discrimination and the right to life. What is the point of the UN if it refuses to uphold its own humanitarian values and declarations?

"This vote is partly the result of a disturbing homophobic alliance between mostly African and Arab states, often inspired by religious fundamentalism. LGBT people in these countries frequently suffer severe persecution.

“Many of the nations that voted for this amendment want to ensure that their anti-gay policies are not scrutinised or condemned by the UN. Even if they don’t directly sanction the killing of LGBT people, they have lined up alongside nations that do.

"South Africa and Cuba claim to support LGBT human rights, yet they voted to remove sexual orientation. They can no longer be considered gay-friendly states. Both countries have allied themselves with tyrannical, violent, homophobic regimes, like Saudi Arabia and Iran. Presidents Raul Castro and Jacob Zuma should hang their heads in shame. They've betrayed the liberation ideals that they profess to uphold," said Mr Tatchell.

"It's a step backwards and it's extremely disappointing that some countries felt the need to remove the reference to sexual orientation, when sexual orientation is the very reason why so many people around the world have been subjected to violence," said Philippe Bolopion of Human Rights Watch.

States will have the opportunity to restore the reference to sexual orientation – and hopefully extend it to also include gender identity – when the resolution comes up before the UN General Assembly on Monday, December 20.

We call on the Government of South Africa to change its vote and to reverse the removal of sexual orientation from the resolution. This resolution seeks to bring attention to the most serious human rights violation, the loss of the right to life. The Special Rapporteur on extra-judicial executions has constantly underlined that people are subject to extra-judicial executions because of their actual or presumed sexual orientation or gender identity.

On International Human Rights Day, 2010, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon addressed a UN side event: ‘Ending Violence and Criminal Sanctions on the Basis of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.’ This panel was convened by, among other countries, Norway and Brazil.

The Secretary General in his remarks noted that “When individuals are attacked [or] abused … because of their sexual orientation, we must speak out… It is not called the ‘Partial’ Declaration of Human Rights. It is not the ‘Sometimes’ Declaration of Human Rights. It is the Universal Declaration, guaranteeing all human beings their basic human rights, without exception.”

We call on the Government of South Africa to ensure that regardless of what the perceptions of gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender persons are, that the government will not endorse the torture or killing of people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

To fail to do so is to reverse the progress South Africa has made locally and internationally in advancing human rights.

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