ANALYSIS: The Great UN Pushback Against Gender Ideology

By | December 15, 2022

NEW YORK, December 16 (C-Fam) Delegates from powerful Western countries thought they could ram homosexual/trans issues through the General Assembly this Fall. What they discovered is increasing resistance from the developing world.

During the soon to conclude General Assembly, Western delegates met a wall of resistance to any new mentions of controversial social policies, whether express or implied. Traditional countries blocked references to sexual orientation and gender identity, diversity, and comprehensive sexuality education. Additionally, these governments delivered dozens of statements against the left’s sexual agenda. All told, more than 60 countries objected to what they see as dangerous and even radical language.

This was in sharp contrast to last year, when Western countries celebrated adding “sexual orientation and gender identity” to a resolution on democracy, only the second to ever include the highly controversial phrase. The renewed pushback is not by accident.

More and more countries realize that the United States, European Union, and the donor countries of Scandinavia use international policy and human rights as a pretext to bypass and undermine democratic legislative debates. The sexual left wants to impose gender ideology and an international right to abortion on the world without ever having a democratic debate about it.

Western countries have flooded resolutions with ambiguous terms like “sexual and reproductive health” and “intersecting forms of discrimination” to promote controversial issues. Initially this only effects UN policies and programs through UN agencies, but eventually it is designed to develop into full-fledged obligations under the theory of customary international law.

The legal theory put forth by abortion and homosexual/trans advocates is that the continued adoption of these ambiguous terms in UN resolutions combined with the practices of international organizations can, over time, be read as consent to the development of binding international norms. A new customary international norm may emerge when countries universally act according to the same practice based on the belief that it is required by law, but it cannot be applied against a country that persistently objects to its development. Lots of countries are now objecting.

While delegates from traditional countries routinely block express references to sexual orientation, abortion, and other controversial issues, they won’t always block ambiguous terms outright because of the pressure from Western countries on their capitals. So, they limit themselves to expressing reservations that clarify how they understand ambiguous terms in official meetings. These statements cannot prevent the development of controversial policies, but they do help prevent the development of new customary international law.

That UN resolutions and their implementation by UN agencies can be seen as evidence of new customary international norms is well attested, even though it is not universally accepted by scholars. The International Law Commission has said as much.

The U.S. government often repeats blanket reservations stating that the adoption of specific resolutions it disagrees with do not have any effect on customary international law. Given that the U.S. government is the only one making this reservation and that it often makes it only when objecting to the contents of specific resolutions, it only bolsters the credibility of UN resolutions as building blocks of customary international law. It is true that United Nations resolutions are not binding on States and cannot change customary international law in and of themselves, but they can nonetheless contribute to the formation of customary international law by how they are implemented by international agencies combined with their repeated adoption over time.