3 July 2016 By Alan Frank - QL USA
The United Nations Human Rights Council voted last Thursday to create the institution's first LGBT rights watchdog. South Africa abstained on the vote.
The resolution passed in a vote of 23 to 18, with six abstentions including South Africa.
South Africa's ANC Government representative said it could not support the resolution because the sponsors' "arrogant and confrontational" approach would divide the Human Rights Council, and claimed South Africa's path out of apartheid argues for a more collaborative approach."
The ambassador's statement is a betrayal of the essence of South Africa's constitution," said Graeme Reid, a South African LGBT rights advocate who now heads Human Rights Watch's LGBT program. "To invoke the struggle against apartheid as justification for not supporting a resolution on violence and discrimination is both inaccurate and cynical."
This was the most ambitious effort yet to advance LGBT rights within the U.N. system, and the resolution included the strongest language to date suggesting LGBT rights should be a concern of international human rights law.
The two previous resolutions concerning LGBT rights passed by the U.N. Human Rights Council merely called for the U.N.'s human rights office to prepare reports examining LGBT rights. But these and the few other mentions of sexual orientation or gender identity in other U.N. documents have been so modest that the U.N. Security Council made headlines by including a reference to sexual orientation in a press statement condemning the attack on a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida — even though the document was not a formal resolution, it was notable that the U.N.'s most powerful committee had mentioned sexual orientation in any kind of declaration.
HOWEVER, opponents of the resolution, led by Pakistan on behalf of almost all members of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC), succeeded in adding several amendments that framed the LGBT rights proposal as a cultural imposition intending to override local values and sovereignty.
Albania, which is a co-sponsor of the resolution, was the sole member of the OIC to break from the bloc.These amendments include a handful that urge respect for local values, "religious sensitivities," and domestic politics.
Another amendment suggests the resolution undermines universal human rights values to "impose concepts or notions pertaining to social matters, including private individual conduct."An additional amendment condemned "coercive measures" to change national policies, a slap at donor nations that have adjusted international aid in response to anti-LGBT laws.