September 26, 2014 at 12:49 pm EST | by Michael K. Lavers
U.N. Human Rights Council adopts LGBT resolution
United Nations Human Rights Council, gay news, Washington Blade

(Photo by United States Mission Geneva; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

The U.N. Human Rights Council on Friday adopted a resolution against anti-LGBT violence and discrimination.

The body approved the resolution by a 25-14 vote margin after more than an hour of debate.

The U.S., along with Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Cuba, Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Montenegro, Peru, Philippines, South Korea, South Africa, Macedonia, the U.K., Venezuela and Vietnam voted for the proposal. Algeria, Botswana, Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Gabon, Indonesia, Kenya, Kuwait, Maldives, Morocco, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates opposed it.

Burkina Faso, China, Congo, India, Kazakhstan, Namibia and Sierra Leone abstained.

The U.N. Human Rights Council before the final vote rejected seven proposed amendments put forth by Egypt, Uganda, Pakistan, South Sudan and other countries that sought to strip LGBT-specific language from the proposal

“We are pleased to see that today the international community is visibly and publicly upholding the rights of LGBT individuals, and thereby we demonstrate ourselves as a global community respecting the rights of all,” said Ambassador Keith Harper, who represents the U.S. on the U.N. Human Rights Council.

Pakistan’s representative to the U.N. Human Rights Council described the resolution as a “divisive and controversial initiative.”

“The Human Rights Council has taken a fundamental step forward by reaffirming one of the United Nations’ key principles — that everyone is equal in dignity and rights,” said Jessica Stern, executive director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, after the vote. “This resolution puts the U.N. on a trajectory to address the discrimination and violence LGBT persons suffer daily across the world.”

Laurindo Garcia, founder of the B-Change Foundation, a Filipino LGBT advocacy group, told the Washington Blade in an e-mail from New York that he hopes the resolution will spur his country’s lawmakers to pass a national anti-discrimination bill.

“What passed in Geneva means that violence perpetrated against us in our homes and communities will not be tolerated,” said Garcia. “It means that our police serve to protect us and our families in the same way they protect every other Filipino citizen. Philippine businesses need to know that they can no longer discriminate against trans Pinoys who want to access services or gain employment. And our health providers and insurers can no longer deny health from LGBT communities. We’ve got a long way to go, and we needed a win like this to reenergise the community.”

Chile, Colombia, Uruguay and Brazil introduced the resolution earlier this month.

The Movement for Homosexual Liberation and Integration, a Chilean LGBT advocacy group, in a statement it released immediately after the vote applauded President Michelle Bachelet’s administration for advancing the resolution. The organization nevertheless pointed out anti-LGBT discrimination and a lack of marriage rights for same-sex couples remain an issue for advocates in the South American country.

“The leadership shown (at the U.N. Human Rights Council) is also a challenge and commitment of the authorities to end all forms of discrimination in our country, which includes the approval of marriage equality,” said the Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation. “Anything to the contrary would contradict this leadership shown today.”

The U.N. Human Rights Council in 2011 narrowly approved an LGBT rights resolution that South Africa introduced.

The same body in June adopted a resolution on “Protection of the Family” that Egypt spearheaded. Russia, Uganda and other countries co-sponsored it.

LGBT advocates earlier this week expressed concern that South Africa would not support the latest resolution, but in the end the country backed it.

Ambassador Abdul Samad Minty, who is South Africa’s permanent U.N. representative in Geneva, said after the vote that the resolution “is in sync with our national values shaped on our own history and experience of discrimination.”

“This history and the struggle against all forms of discrimination has therefore made us, as a people and a country, committed to the principle that no person should be subjected to discrimination or violence based on race, class, sex, religion, gender and as is the case with this resolution, on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity,” said Minty. “It is the same value base that guides our stance on fighting for equality between countries and why we shall always make our voices heard about exploitation and oppression of people in any form.”

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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