( The vote; image by rappler.com)
The U.N. Human Rights Council adopted a resolution against anti-LGBT violence and discrimination at just concluded its 32 session by majority vote. The resolution calls for establishing a mandate on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Cube and Viet Nam supported the resolution while China, Russia and member countries belongs to Organisation of Islamic Countries excerpt Albania opposes the resolution.
“In a historic vote the UN Human Rights Council has created an Independent Expert dedicated to sexual orientation and gender identity issues. The expert will work to combat and prevent violence, hatred and discrimination. ” says a ISHR, based in Geneva.
The International Service for Human Rights’ programme manager, Pooja Patel, has said the outcome was a fantastic win for lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people all around the world.
‘This is a tremendous outcome and very timely. In all countries, in all regions, from Orlando to Bangladesh, LGBT people are subjected to hate and violence and it must be combatted at every level including at the UN,’ said Ms Patel.
During the epic three hour vote, the original resolution proposed jointly by the Governments of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico and Uruguay was watered down by a series of amendments led by regressive countries like Russia and members of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation such as Pakistan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, which pledged not to cooperate with the Independent Expert. Ms Patel noted that non-cooperation with the Council’s mechanisms is fundamentally incompatible with Council membership.
‘Universal human rights means all human rights for all people everywhere, so it’s regrettable that a number of hostile amendments adopted actually inserted discredited notions of cultural relativism into the text,’ said Ms Patel.
OHCHR summary of the debate (edited) and adoption of the resolution follows:
Council establishes mandate on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
In a resolution (A/HRC/32/L.2/Rev.1) on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, adopted by a vote of 23 in favour, 18 against and 6 abstentions as amended, the Council decides to appoint, for a period of three years, an Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, with the mandate to assess the implementation of existing international human rights instruments with regard to ways to overcome violence and discrimination against persons on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity; raise awareness of violence and discrimination against persons on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity, and to identify and address the root causes of violence and discrimination; and engage in dialogue and to consult with States and other relevant stakeholders. The Council also requests the Independent Expert to report annually to the Human Rights Council, starting from its thirty-fifth session, and to the General Assembly, starting from its seventy-second session.
The result of the vote was as follows:
In favour (23): Albania, Belgium, Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, France, Georgia, Germany, Latvia, Mexico, Mongolia, Netherlands, Nigeria, Panama, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Slovenia, Switzerland, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Venezuela, and Viet Nam.
Against (18): Algeria, Bangladesh, Burundi, China, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Maldives, Morocco, Namibia, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Togo, and United Arab Emirates.
Abstentions (6): Botswana, Ghana, India, Maldives, Philippines, and South Africa.
Chile, introducing draft resolution L.2/Rev.1 on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, recalled that to date the Council had already endorsed this issue through two resolutions. The High Commissioner had issued a report underscoring the need for a mechanism focusing specifically and comprehensively on this matter. The resolution aimed to fill this gap.
Uruguay, also introducing draft resolution L.2/Rev.1, said that this type of violence required a specific response from the Council, which was why the resolution established a new mandate. The Council was already dealing with many types of violence and discrimination, and now needed to fill the gap and ensure the protection against violence and discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation and gender identity.
Brazil, also introducing draft resolution L.2/Rev.1, said that this initiative sought to promote much needed dialogue to put an end to violence and discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation and gender identity, on the basis of international human rights instruments and the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action. The draft resolution had been translated in all official languages of the United Nations, and broad consultations had been conducted. Brazil called on all delegations to vote in favour of this text, and in favour of leaving no one behind.
Action on No-Action Motion
Saudi Arabia took the floor on a point of order to request a no-action motion, saying this was a last attempt to make co-sponsors understand the consequences of this deeply divisive proposal that failed to recognize cultural differences. The draft was contrary to international human rights law and would disregard the universality of human rights, Saudi Arabia said, calling on the main co-sponsors to reconsider the consideration of this draft resolution.
The President said he would give the floor to two speakers for the no-action motion and two speakers against it.
Mexico, taking the floor, on L.2/Rev.1, said that it opposed categorically the non-action motion and asked that it be put to a vote. Mexico deplored countries which took refuge behind a procedural rule to prevent the Human Rights Council from speaking on an initiative. It was the responsibility of the Council to openly address those situations which undermined human rights around the world. The international community might have diverging points of view, but closing the dialogue should not be an option to hinder progress on human rights protection. The no-action motion made it impossible for the Council to address those issues. Voting for the motion was tantamount to avoiding the responsibility that States had accepted when they became members of the Council and it would ignore the suffering of thousands. All were encouraged to reaffirm their support for the mechanisms of the body they had decided to be a part of. Mexico called for the motion to be rejected.
Panama rejected the no-action motion and said that it was clear that what was sought was an escape route. It was imperative that the Council addressed all forms of violence and discrimination against people. All were called on to vote against the no-action motion.
Bangladesh expressed support for the proposal made by Saudi Arabia.
Nigeria took the floor on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, with the exception of Albania, and spoke in favour of the no-action motion on draft resolution L.2 as requested by Saudi Arabia. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation believed that the draft resolution L.2 was divisive and was concerned that the lack of definitions of sexual orientation and gender identity and the attached human rights and fundamental freedoms carried certain responsibility for States. The controversial views of those issues could not be imposed by some Member States. The adoption of the resolution would ensure that the attention on sexual orientation and gender identity issues as seen by the Western States would take root in the United Nations, without taking into account the views of a large number of States. The draft resolution was highly divisive and would create rancour within the Council which now should be focusing on its core agenda.
The Council rejected the no-action motion by a vote of 15 in favour, 22 against and nine abstentions.
Mexico, speaking on behalf of the core group of sponsors in an explanation of the vote before the vote, noted that many proposed amendments would have gone against the purpose of the draft resolution. Fortunately, they had been rejected. The main objective still stood, which was the appointment of an Independent Expert; the main purpose would be fulfilled even if the draft resolution was amended. Mexico urged all Member States to be consistent and to vote in favour of the draft resolution in order to give hope to millions of persons.
Philippines, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, stated that it was its practice to protect human rights and fundamental freedoms for all. It had stood against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. However, a human rights mandate holder specific to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex rights would run counter to the universality of human rights. Philippines expressed hope that this would not derogate the rights of States and impinge on their sovereignty. The creation of a mandate holder would apply a set of rules specific to a certain sector on which there was no international agreement. Thus, the Philippines would abstain on the draft resolution.
Russian Federation, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that authorities in Russia carefully investigated and prosecuted all cases of violence and discrimination. Elements of private life were deeply individual choices, and they did not need a particular system of protection. International law, and national law in Russia, was extended in all areas equally, including women, ethnic or religious minorities or homosexuals. The Russian Federation noted that many thousands of years of development was carried out by those who did not make such a private choice, and the Russian Federation regretted that the co-sponsors of this resolution were trying to prevent others from defending their own views. The Russian Federation would vote against the creation of this mandate, and should it be established nonetheless, it would not cooperate with it.
Saudi Arabia, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that this draft resolution went contrary to its sacred values. It sought to impose issues that were prohibited by Saudi Arabia’s religion. This had nothing to do with discrimination or violence. The adoption of this mandate holder would lead to discussions on controversial issues that the Council would never be in a position to impose on Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia would vote against this text, and would not cooperate with the Independent Expert.
South Africa, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, noted that no person should be subjected to discrimination or violence on any ground, including on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. South Africa’s approach to the protection of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons was focusing on maximum unity within the Council. The draft resolution added unnecessary divisiveness, building on the previous African initiative of 2012. It was an arrogant approach. Recklessness and point scoring would not take anyone anywhere. South Africa could not support the resolution as it stood and would thus abstain.
Botswana, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, noted that its Constitution did not condone violence against any person. It had to be noted, however, that at the international level there was no accepted terminology on gender identity and sexual orientation. In that regard, it was important to respect local cultural, religious and historic circumstances and values.
Nigeria, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, observed that the draft resolution had a lot of defects in substance and form. States had the right to make laws for the good governance of their people. That right could not be hijacked by other States to impose offensive practices. The selection of mandate holders had to be transparent. However, the procedure building up to the draft resolution had not been transparent. The Council was not yet ready for an Independent Expert on gender identity and sexual orientation as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex rights did not enjoy the kind of general acceptance necessary for their adoption as universally accepted rights. For those reasons Nigeria would vote against the draft resolution.
Viet Nam, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, welcomed efforts to combat violence and discrimination, and would vote in favour of the draft resolution. Viet Nam stressed that the mandate holder endorsed in the draft should discharge his or her duty strictly in line with the code of conduct. Differences among societies had to be respected. That was the principle under which Viet Nam had voted on the amendments.
Indonesia, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, reaffirmed its commitment to the elimination of violence against all persons as defined in international human rights treaties. The Council should take a constructive and cooperative approach, especially when concerned with issues touching on morality. Members of the Council should refrain from imposing values which did not enjoy international consensus. Indonesia was concerned that the draft resolution was divisive. While welcoming several amendments, Indonesia considered that the basic proposal remained the same, and for that reason was unable to support the draft resolution. Indonesia also wanted it put on the record that Indonesia would not engage with the mandate holder.
Albania, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, commended the leadership of the core group protesting against violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Violence against any individual was condemned, and the inherent dignity of all individuals should be upheld. The protection from violence of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons was a priority for the Albanian Government. The aim of the draft resolution was to appoint a Special Procedure mandate holder, who could work on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The current text of the resolution did not seek to create any new rights, but affirmed the application of existing human rights standards.
France, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that it did not subscribe to the amendments brought to the text, which were contrary to the universality of human rights. France would vote in favour of the text, which was useful to enhance the fight against violence or discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation and gender equality.
Morocco, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, regretted that the draft was dividing the Council, when the tenth anniversary of the Council should have been an opportunity to promote consensus. This text ran against the beliefs of more than 1.5 billion people in the world. Islam was a religion of non-violence, and Morocco had made great commitments in that regard. But today it was forced to call on all States to vote against this text, in order to support those outside the United Nations who expected the Council to protect their culture and values.
Algeria, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, reiterated its opposition to all types of violence or discrimination. However, it believed that it was not useful to impose values upon others. Sexual orientation was a private matter, and Algeria rejected appointing a mandate holder on this issue.
Ghana, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, reminded that in 2013 the African Commission on Human Rights had adopted a resolution on the protection against violence and other human rights violations on the basis of gender identity. It was adopted against the background of alarming human rights violations against individuals because of their sexual orientation and gender identity. The current discussion was taking place against the background of the Orlando killings. The laws of Ghana would not permit any individual to be persecuted because of their sexual orientation. However, the matter was culturally very sensitive in Ghana. Ghana supported those who were naturally inclined to have a different sexual orientation, but it did not accept the propagation or commercialization of it. It would therefore abstain.
Namibia, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, opposed any violence against individuals based on sexual orientation and gender identity. All persons in Namibia were equal under law. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons were able to participate in government services. However, there was no internationally agreed definition of sexual orientation and gender identity, which left a lacuna in law. Namibia was concerned about the mandate of the Independent Expert and thus it would abstain.
United Kingdom, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that although the resolution had been amended, its fundamental aim had been retained. The draft resolution did not ask countries to change their legislation. It urged States to vote in favour of the draft resolution in order to protect some of the most vulnerable persons in society. It would give hope to many people around the world. A vote in favour would be a vote of solidarity for the countless victims of discrimination around the world.
Netherlands, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, expressed gratitude to the sponsors for their thoughtful concept note. The Netherlands did not believe that the international community had to wait for absolute unity. It was important not to fail persons who belonged to minorities. The Netherlands had not supported the inclusion of a number of preambular paragraphs. If one looked at the package, universality still prevailed, and that remained the Netherlands’ perspective.
The Council then adopted resolution L.2/Rev.1 by a vote of 23 in favour, 18 against and six abstentions.