“Sexual Rights” Proponents Seek Legitimacy Through Universal Periodic Review

By Rebecca Oas, Ph.D. | November 17, 2016

NEW YORK, November 18 (C-Fam) Western activists have turned to a relatively obscure UN procedure to change national laws in traditional countries on such things as homosexual marriage and sexual “rights”.  The latest UN data shows the stratagem is gaining traction but has so far not broken down resistance.

In a recent report, the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, known as ILGA, referred to the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) mechanism, which operates under the UN’s Human Rights Council, as “the most progressive arena for the protection of the LGBTI community at the international level.”  The UPR consists of a four-year cycle in which every UN member country receives recommendations from other countries on how to improve its human rights record.

Countries under review can choose to “accept” or merely “note” the recommendations they receive; recommendations promoting abortion or homosexuality have low rates of acceptance.

As the second cycle of the UPR draws to a close, member states have received more than 950 recommendations pertaining to sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI), nearly double the amount given in the first cycle.  Two thirds of all SOGI recommendations were made by countries in the “Western European and Others” regional group, which contains several other wealthy countries including the United States, Canada, and Australia.  However, the most frequent target region was Africa, which received over a quarter of all SOGI recommendations.

The scope of recommended actions varied by national and regional context: more than half of the recommendations for specific action called for the repeal of laws criminalizing same-sex behavior in the many countries where such laws exist.  But countries with anti-discrimination provisions for LGBT-identified persons also received SOGI recommendations, including calls to recognize same-sex marriage, allow the adoption of children by same-sex couples, and redefine the family in law.  According to ILGA, the UPR has “triggered unprecedented political traction for the […] recognition of the diversity of ‘family.’”

Within the entire UPR system, 74% of recommendations across all human rights issues have been accepted by the country under review, which is double the acceptance rate of SOGI recommendations.

While most of the UN’s 193 member countries have received SOGI recommendations, they emanate from a much smaller group of countries.  Over 140 countries have never issued a single SOGI recommendation, while less than 25 account for over 90% of SOGI pressure within the UPR.  Moreover, 30% of all SOGI recommendations in both UPR cycles come from just four countries: Canada, the Netherlands, Spain, and France.

UPR recommendations are not binding, and many countries have resisted pressure to change their laws.  However, efforts to normalize the “sexual rights” agenda using the UPR are strengthened and legitimized when member states credit UPR recommendations as the impetus for changing their laws and policies.

“In Viet Nam and Sri Lanka, the UPR was decisive in legitimizing the role of LGBTI activists,” according to a report released by UPR-Info, which maintains a database of all recommendations.  The report, published with support from Norway and the Netherlands, also points out that when Seychelles repealed its law against same-sex activities earlier this year, several government ministers cited the pressure they had received within the UPR.

Such an acknowledgment by one country will likely fuel further pressure directed at others.