LGBT supporters gain United Nations victoryVideos Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011
The 192 nation United Nations (U.N.) General Assembly has voted to restore a reference to sexual orientation that had been deleted from a resolution condemning unjustified slayings. The shift came after the United States submitted an amendment to restore the reference, which the General Assem-bly’s Human Rights Committee removed last month.
The U.S. amendment that restored the reference to sexual orientation was adopted with 93 votes in favor, 55 against and 27 abstentions. The amend-ed resolution was then approved with 122 yes votes, one against and 62 abstentions. Saudi Arabia cast the sole vote against the resolution, and the United States was among those who abstained.
Towards the end of last year the committee had deleted the reference at the proposal of African and Arab nations. This had outraged Western countries and human rights activ-ists. Similar resolutions adopted in previous years had explicitly mentioned unjustified killings due to sexual orientation.
Executive Director of the Inter-national Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), Cary Alan Johnson said, “The outpouring of support from the international community sent the strong message to our representatives at the U.N. that it is unacceptable to make invisible the deadly violence lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people face because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation.”
Zimbabwe’s U.N. Ambassador, Chitsaka Chipaziwa, was far from pleased. He said, “We will not have it foisted on us. We cannot accept this, especially if it entails accepting such practices as bestiality, pedophilia and those other practices many societies would find abhorrent in their value systems.” It was later reported by a news agency that a European diplomat considered Chipaziwa’s statement “disgraceful.”
The main opposition to the U.S. amendment came from African and Muslim states, backed by powerful support from China and Russia, both of which voted against including a reference to slayings of people because of their sexual orientation. Several states that had voted against the inclusion in November reversed their positions and voted for the U.S. amendment, among them the African nations of South Africa and Rwanda.
President Barack Obama welcomed the adoption of the U.S. amendment. However, Washington sent an ambiguous signal of support by abstaining from the vote on the amended resolution condemning extrajudicial, arbitrary and summary executions.
Spokesman for the U.S. mission to the United Nations, Mark Kornblau, explained the U.S. abstention as follows, “We have made clear throughout that we would abstain on the overall resolution, as we have in the past, due to reasons unrelated to the language on sexual orientation. The resolution obscures the relationship between international humanitarian law and human rights law and contributes to legal uncertainty in this area.”
Editor of the website Gay Middle East, Dan Littauer, warned LGBT supporters that there was still a lot of work to do at the U.N. He said, “It seems that the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), Arab, and some of the African nations are not going to give up easily on this issue and are planning further action to battle against this nascent international legal recognition.”
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