There are a number of indicators that progress toward human rights for LGBT persons is not being made, despite momentum forward resulting from recent marriage equality resolutions in France, New Zealand and the United Kingdom as well as a few states in the USA. Overall, worldwide, we are slipping backward again.
The online journal IntLawGrrls on June 7 headlined: “The United Nations Human Rights Council’s Backwards Step on LGBT Rights”. The article reported that South Africa will not table a resolution, after all, on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights at the United Nation’s Human Rights Council’s 23rd session. Thanks to Paisan Likhitpreechakul for posting this article on Facebook.
“The majority of states across the world do not recognize sexual orientation and gender rights” the article complained. Most African and Islamic countries are strengthening their laws and policies that criminalize homosexual acts and even criminalize persons who offer support and comfort for homosexuals.
The UN Human Rights Council did pass Resolution 17/19 in June 2011 while many of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) representatives were unavailable for the vote, being distracted by the Arab Spring uprisings which began in Tunisia in December 2010 and toppled the governments of Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and Libya and spread to almost every Islamic country over the next year.
As a result of Resolution 17/19 a Panel on Sexual Orientation took place in March 2012, by which time OIC members were back in their chairs, but then the whole OIC block walked out in protest, reportedly insisting that the panel (and by implication the whole issue of sexual rights) “has nothing to do with fundamental human rights.”
The crux of the matter before the UN is whether mechanics can be put into place to provide technical assistance to member states in sorting out how to provide and protect human rights for persons endangered by their sexual orientation and gender identity. It had been hoped, the IntLawGrrls article said, that a new resolution this year would create a Special Procedures mandate to mainstream the issue of LGBT rights as human rights. The decision by South Africa not to table a resolution is a step backward.
Respondents to the article, however, point out that a number of panels worldwide had been convened, including one in Oslo where the Special Procedures idea was debated. It happens that there was no consensus that the Special Procedures mandate would be the best approach, and that support for any particular idea was insufficient. This may have been the real reason why South Africa made its decision. Not all the blame should be laid on the OIC and the African block.
Meanwhile, in places as far apart as Uganda and Ukraine the chaos on human rights for LGBT persons threatens to deteriorate into mass violence. It can still be argued that overall, around the world, we are increasingly endangered rather than increasingly safer.
Rev. Dr. Kenneth Dobson posts his weekly reflections on this blog.