U.N. keeps focus on anti-LGBTI violence; Africa divided

Display shows U.N. Human Rights Council votes on the SOGI resolution.
Display shows U.N. Human Rights Council votes on the SOGI resolution.

The U.N. Human Rights Council today passed a resolution opposing violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Contrary to some predictions, the proposal, pushed by Latin American countries, did not face united opposition either from all African nations or all countries with anti-gay laws.

The resolution reinforces a resolution on the same subject, proposed by South Africa, that the council passed in 2011. It  asks the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights to gather and publish information on how best to overcome discrimination and violence.

Seven amendments to gut or water down the resolution were defeated.

In a photo showing council members’ votes on the proposal,  the following African countries registered no opposition to it: South Africa (voting yes, contrary to some supporters’ fears), Burkina Faso, Congo, Namibia and Sierra Leone (each abstaining).

The following countries with anti-gay laws registered no opposition to it: India, Namibia and Sierra Leone (abstaining).

Ivory Coast voted against the resolution, despite local activists’ plea to the government to support it.

South Africa’s permanent representative to the United Nations, Abdul Samad Minty, said of the vote in favor of the resolution:

Abdul Samad Minty, South Africa's representative to the United Nations. (Photo courtesy of sahistory.org.za)
Abdul Samad Minty, South Africa’s representative to the United Nations. (Photo courtesy of sahistory.org.za)

“The South African government believes that we as a country will benefit from such a report. Despite our enabling laws, people in our country are still  subjected to discrimination and violence based on their sexual orientation  and gender identity. The scale of the violence has resulted in our Justice  Department establishing a hate crimes unit to deal specifically with this kind  of discrimination and violence.

“The same applies as to why South Africa could not support the proposed  paragraph (pp9), which referred to existing national laws, customs or beliefs.  This clause is not relevant to a resolution that will look at the development  of a best practice report on measures to reduce discrimination and violence,  which may have to look at the role that policies, laws, religion and customs  may play in the very issue that we are trying to address.

“The essence of this resolution is to help us all understand what we can do  better to protect the lives and dignity of all our citizens.”

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Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at [email protected]

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