Retiring UN LGBT Czar Bids Farewell to General Assembly, Walks Back Talk of Censorship
NEW YORK, November 3 (C-Fam) The first and only UN human rights post on LGBT issues is suddenly vacant following the premature retirement of Thai law professor and LGBT activist Vitit Muntarbhorn hardly a year into his first term.
“It has been an enormous pleasure to serve the mandate, even though I am stepping down at the end of this month due to recurrent illness and family reasons,” Muntarbhorn said tersely in his final report to the General Assembly last week.
Despite continuing setbacks for LGBT rights, he said, the UN human rights system offered “light and hope like the variegated colors of an arc en ciel, an arch in the sky,” displaying once again his penchant for graphic expressions.
Muntarbhorn praised the many recent developments to promote LGBT agenda through UN agencies and the UN bureaucracy, including a joint statement from the human rights system and a newly launched LGBTI inclusion index. But he also acknowledged the divisiveness of this agenda within the UN system, not least because of the very progressive positions of Muntarbhorn himself and the streamlining of LGBT issues into UN agencies. Despite these advances the LGBT agenda is still contested and there is no binding obligation in international law related to sexual orientation and gender identity.
“I am totally conscious of the various sensitivities underlying the mandate,” Muntarbhorn said, adding that he was presently promoting a limited focus “anchored” in international human rights law and targeted against violence and discrimination.
“There is no advocacy of new rights,” he tried to assure the General Assembly, even though he has been outspoken about his intention to eventually promote homosexual marriage. And he walked back suggestions that censorship should be used to prevent opposition, saying that only “incitement to violence” can be prevented under international law.
Muntarbhorn said different “pillars of power” should opportunistically be used as “entry points” for the LGBT agenda, referring to whichever branch of government, be it legislative, executive, judicial is “more progressive” at any given time. He described this as a form of “checks and balances.”
His report highlighted decriminalization of consensual same-sex relations and gender identity and anti-discrimination measures “covering both the public and private spheres.”
Muntarbhorn called for “vigorous” efforts to repeal discriminatory laws and “affirmative action” to implement anti-discrimination measures. “Anti-discrimination laws come in various shapes and sizes,” he explained. He emphasized particularly educating children from a young age and praised the use of “fairy tales” to promote the LGBT agenda in classrooms.
Less than a year ago the General Assembly nearly suppressed Muntarbhorn’s post in two contentious and close votes only a month after he was appointed. Had countries voted according to their laws the post would have likely been ended before becoming operational.
LGBT issues remain as divisive as ever at UN headquarters. LGBT advocates are on high alert because a biannual resolution about the Olympics may no longer endorse the Olympic Charter, which was amended to include sexual orientation in 2015.
U.S. Ambassador Kelley Currie joined delegates from Europe and Latin America in praising Muntarbhorn for his work. Currie emphasized the mandate was of “critical importance” to the United States.
A vote to replace Muntarbhorn is expected in the Human Rights Council in Geneva in early December.