U.N. postpones historic gay rights vote

U.N. postpones historic gay rights vote

SUMMARY: On Friday the United Nations (newsweb sites) Human Rights Commission deferred a landmark resolution on human rights and sexual orientation until next year.

On Friday the United Nations Human Rights Commission deferred a landmark resolution on human rights and sexual orientation until next year, apparently after five Muslim nations — four of them United States allies — maneuvered procedural delays.

Libyan chairwomen Najjat Al-Hajjaji’s proposal to defer the resolution to the next year’s session was voted 24-17 with 12 abstentions, amid protests from Canada, European Union (newsweb sites) and Brazil.

Friday was the last day of the 59th session of the U.N. Human Rights Commission.

Frederico S. Duque Estrada Meyer of the Brazilian (newsweb sites) delegation in Geneva called it a « double victory, » saying if the resolution had been put to vote it might have been defeated. Meyer said, « We have one year to act. … The issue of discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation is on the table, the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and other opponents of the resolution will not get rid of it. »

On Thursday, Brazil initiated debate on its resolution, titled « Human Rights and Sexual Orientation, » arguing that it created no new rights and that it was strictly based on existing treaties.

The opposition came from mostly military-run Pakistan on the grounds that the resolution conflicted with Islam. Pakistan proposed « no action » to avoid a voting on the resolution but was defeated 24-22, with six abstentions. Behind the scenes, the Vatican (newsweb sites) itself was said to be pressuring predominantly Catholic Latin American nations against the resolution, sources in Geneva said.

The Muslim bloc nations, namely Saudia Arabia, Pakistan, Egypt, Libya and Malaysia, succeeded in delaying a vote by proposing five different amendments to the resolution. On Thursday, Al-Hajjaji postponed the vote until Friday.

In Geneva, Jan Doerfel of the International Research Centre for Social Minorities told the Gay.com/PlanetOut.com Network on Friday: « In spite of the unholy alliance between the Holy See and the OIC, this was a monumental step. This has led to victories that have to be built upon in the years ahead. »

Faisal Alam, founder of world’s first openly queer Muslim organization, Washington-based Al Fatiha, said on Friday, « I am obviously upset. The issue of GLBT rights has been sacrificed at the altar of political expediency. » Alam alleged « blackmail » of the 57-member OIC, U.S. opportunism and the Vatican pressure as the three main reasons that led to Friday’s postponement of the vote.

Others felt there were reasons for cheer. Suki Beavers of the Canadian Action for Population and Development said via e-mail, « This resolution was not defeated and we will be back with a vengeance next year. Although we didn’t get a full out victory, neither is this a defeat and it is clear that this will be the issue for the (U.N.) CHR next year. »

According to Doerfel, the nations who were clearly in favor of the Brazilian initiative were Armenia, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Guatemala, Ireland, Japan, Poland, South Korea (newsweb sites), Russian Federation, Sweden, Thailand, Ukraine and the United Kingdom.

Those who were clearly opposed to the draft resolution were Cameroon, Gabon, Kenya, Libya, Malaysia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Sierra Leone, Syria, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

The nations leaning towards no, though not explicitly so, were Argentina, China, Congo, India and Senegal.

The United States led the fence-sitting nations that included Chile, Paraguay, Peru, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Togo, and Vietnam. Other nations said to be in this category were Cuba, Swaziland, Uruguay and Venezula.

The first-of-its-kind resolution in the U.N.’s 60-year history, the measure had expressed deep concern at the occurrence of violations of human rights on grounds of sexual orientation and urged all states to promote and protect the human rights of all persons regardless of their sexual orientation.

According to the Amnesty International, millions of people across the globe face imprisonment, torture, violence and discrimination because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.