Committee Vote in General Assembly Should Worry LGBT Rights Supporters

By | November 23, 2016

NEW YORK, November 26 (C-Fam) An African challenge to a newly established post of UN ombudsman for LGBT rights failed in a close vote in the 3rd committee of the UN General Assembly on Monday.

“No nation should have dominance over cultural norms,” said the ambassador of Botswana on behalf of African states sponsoring a resolution to suspend a June UN Human Rights Council decision that established a UN independent expert for LGBT rights, the first ever UN mandate on the topic of “sexual orientation and gender identity.”

The African challenge was quashed by a vote of 84 to 77 with 17 abstentions. The result is not final and the resolution may be put to a vote again in the Plenary of the General Assembly in December.

The African resolution challenged the legal basis of the mandate and called for a review of the decision by the General Assembly.

“Which international legal instrument defines the concept of sexual orientation and gender identity?” Botswana’s Ambassador asked rhetorically.

The resolution had the support of many countries in Asia and the Middle East who opposed the mandate outright or simply asked to define its scope to prevent the LGBT ombudsman from promoting the more controversial elements of the homosexual agenda as human rights.

The United States, as well as European and Latin American nations did not spare any arguments against the proposal of the African delegations.

The United States insisted the mandate not be “re-litigated.” US mission personnel spent weeks calling aid dependent member states asking them to support the LGBT ombudsman.

The European Union, speaking through the delegation of Slovakia, said it was “very concerned”, and that the African proposal went against “the spirit of the United Nations.”

Many echoed the severe claim of the Europeans that the ability of the Human Rights Council to function was “completely undermined” by the African proposal.

Behind the substantive disagreement on the definition of LGBT rights another systemic disagreement took place, having to do with the authority of the 194-member General Assembly to review the decisions of subsidiary bodies like those of the 47 member Human Rights Council.

Europeans and Latin Americans generally view the Human Rights Council as the UN’s primary human rights forum. But many developing countries, particularly those that are small and poor, and unable to actively participate in all UN bodies and processes, insist on reviewing all decisions at the UN General Assembly.

Even among countries who view the General Assembly as the venue for these discussions, a kind of brinkmanship on the specific issue of LGBT rights was on display Monday.

The ambassador of Mexico said he agreed about the authority of the General Assembly. But he opposed the African proposal intimating that African delegations and others opposing the LGBT mandate were unable to be “sufficiently reasonable” on this topic.

If the resolution is put to a vote again in the Plenary of the General Assembly, the result may change. Only seven countries would need to switch their votes to kill the proposal. At least 18 states that punish sodomy either abstained or voted against the African position.