UN Appoints Global LGBT Ombudsman, Nations Push Back

By | October 6, 2016

Vitit Muntarbhorn

NEW YORK, October 7 (C-Fam) The Human Rights Council appointed a prominent gay rights activist as UN ombudsman for LGBT issues last week.

The appointment validates suspicions that a newly-established post will not be limited to investigating violence against individuals who self-identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) but rather be used to promote a broad sexual rights agenda.

The 57-state Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) denounced the process leading up to the decision as “conflictual and contested.”

A delegate from Saudi Arabia, speaking on behalf of the OIC warned colleagues about the “negative consequences” that would inevitably flow from the appointment of Thai law professor Vitit Muntarbhorn to the position of independent expert on violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Muntarbhorn was one of the principal authors of the Yogyakarta Principles, a manifesto for the advancement of special new LGBT rights internationally.

The document argues that international law obliges states to give special status to relations between individuals of the same-sex, decriminalize sodomy everywhere, promote social acceptance of homosexuality, limit freedom of speech and religion, and a host of new obligations that are not internationally recognized.

The OIC said none of its member states would “interact” with the newly established post.

The group said the mandate violates the “cultural and religious sensitivities” of a majority of people in the world. They warned proponents of LGBT rights to “understand the consequences of this deeply divisive initiative.”

“The post does not exist as far as we are concerned,” said a Russian delegate. The Russian Federation opposed the mandate as an attempt to “impose certain behavioral models.”

The appointment of Muntarbhorn is expected to be challenged by the UN General Assembly next month.

The 54-state African Group will likely present the work of the Human Rights Council, including the new LGBT post, to the UN General Assembly. It remains unclear if the group will seek to suspend the implementation of the resolution adopted in June or just rubberstamp the appointment of the new LGBT ombudsman. The Group has yet to take a joint position against the mandate.

Some delegates who oppose the mandate are concerned that attempts to suspend or bracket the mandate would fail. This is what happened to an effort to reverse the Secretary General decision to grant marriage benefits to UN staff in same-sex relations last March. But experts say that vote should not be seen as a predictor of the likely outcome of a vote on the new LGBT mandate.

That vote involved an obscure internal UN personnel matter in the UN budget committee. 70 countries abstained, unable to support LGBT rights because of the social and political situation at home and unable to oppose them because of pressure from the United States and Europe. In the end, 80 countries voted in favor of allowing such benefits. 43 countries voted against.

Because the present vote would be on a matter that directly involves all states the 70 votes that were not cast in March would come back into play since a decision to abstain might have political implications.