Ivory Coast activists join push for U.N. rights resolution

U.N. Human Rights Council (Photo courtesy of Daily Maverick)
U.N. Human Rights Council (Photo courtesy of Daily Maverick)

Human rights defenders in Ivory Coast today urged their country to support a  U.N. Human Rights Council (UNHRC) resolution seeking action against discrimination and violence targeting people on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity (SOGI).

The resolution, proposed by Brazil, Chile and Uruguay, calls on the High Commissioner of the UNHRC to issue reports on the problem every two years. [A revised version of the resolution, presented today, called for a report next year, but without mentioning regular reports afterwards.]

South Africa and Brazil submitted a resolution on the problem in 2011, but South Africa’s stance on this year’s resolution remains unclear, although the South African constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

As the South Africa-based Daily Maverick online newspaper reported:

Maite Nkoana-Mashabane (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)
Maite Nkoana-Mashabane (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

This week, in response to the lack of clarity on the vote, a group of concerned South African-based NGOs wrote to Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Michael Masutha and Minister of Social Development, Bathabile Dlamini, urging them to support the SOGI resolution, a key human rights resolution.

“Naturally a vote against this resolution would be contrary to South Africa’s foreign policy and constitutional mandate. An abstention would be seen in a similar light: a failure to speak up and show the commitment to the human rights of all people. In that vein, we also vehemently oppose the bringing of, or support for, procedural measures at the Council that prevent issues being discussed and/or voted-on. This is an issue on which we need more – not less – discussion at the Council,” the letter to the Ministers reads. …

There are countries that view the Uruguay/Chile/Brazil SOGI resolution as being somehow “pushed” by Western countries. The African bloc is opposed to the resolution and it is believed that Namibia and Botswana were unlikely to support it due to trade agreements with China.

In June last year South Africa voted with Russia for a no motion on a debate about the protections on nine categories of family, as set out in South Africa and which includes same-sex families. Russia is vehemently opposed to SOGI issues, as is Egypt.

The human rights defenders’ letter in Ivory Coast is similar to the appeal to  South African leaders. It states that the resolution “does not seek to create new rights, but simply applies existing standards for human rights to people who suffer violations because of their sexual orientation and / or gender identity. [The resolution] also welcomes positive developments while seeking more information and dialogue about violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity.”

Jean Marc Yao
Jean Marc Yao

The Ivory Coast letter is signed by leaders of the Inter-African Association for the Promotion of Health and Human Rights and of the anti-AIDS, pro-human rights group Alternative Côte d’Ivoire, which was the target of homophobic violence earlier this year. It is also signed by legal consultant Claude Alain Yao Kra and  by human rights defender Jean Marc Yao, who also writes for this blog.

The resolution is scheduled for a vote during the current session of the UNHRC in Geneva, Switzerland, which ends Sept. 26.

This is the full letter from the Ivory Coast human rights defenders, translated into English:

Abidjan, 23 September 2014

From: Human Rights Defenders Collective in support of the resolution on
human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity
08 BP 2056 Abidjan 08 [Ivory Coast]
77 05 64 33/05 53 46 53
yaokjmarc (at) gmail.com

To: Minister of State and Foreign Affairs, Republic of Ivory Coast

Subject: Request

Mr. Minister of State,

We, human rights defenders united together, hereby request you to support the resolution on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity presented jointly to the Human Rights Council (UNHRC) by Brazil, Chile and Uruguay.

The resolution reiterates the universality of human rights, and notes a concern about acts of violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. It does not seek to create new rights, but simply applies existing standards for human rights to people who suffer violations because of their sexual orientation and / or gender identity.

It also welcomes positive developments while seeking more information and dialogue about violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity. It also asks for a regular report from the High Commissioner in accordance with the recommendations of Resolution 17/19, presented by South Africa and adopted by the HRC on June 15, 2011.

Mr. Minister of State, in view of the merits of the resolution, please kindly support it wholeheartedly so that it will be adopted by the United Nations Human Rights Council. Such a commitment on your part could only honor Ivory Coast by strengthening its reputation as tolerant country,

Mr. Minister of State, in hopes that you will lend an attentive ear to our just request, be assured of our deep consideration.

Signed:

Yao Konan Jean Marc, Human Rights Defender
Kra Yao Claude Alain, Legal Consultant
Touré Ningwele Claver, Executive Director of Alternative Côte d’Ivoire (ACI)
Koudou Youhoyéré Josiane, President of the Inter-African Association for the Promotion of Health and Human Rights (IPSDH)

 

 

Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. After his retirement from paid newspaper work in 2011, he launched Erasing 76 Crimes and helped with the Spirit of 76 campaign that assembled a multi-national team of 26 LGBTI rights activists to advocate for change during the International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., in July 2012. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, including the Erasing 76 Crimes news site and the African Human Rights Media Network. Contact him via Twitter @76crimes or by email at info@76crimes.com. Mailing address: 21 Marseille, Laguna Niguel CA 92677 USA.

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