Geneva, Switzerland. 30 June 2016. In its 32nd session, the UN Human Rights Council has created an Independent Expert dedicated to sexual orientation and gender identity issues.
The historic resolution passed in a tight vote of 23 to 18, with 6 abstentions. The person appointed to this role will be known as an “independent expert” and the position is charged with monitoring “violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.”
This represents the most ambitious effort yet to advance LGBT rights within the United Nations system, with the resolution including the strongest language to date suggesting LGBT rights should be a concern of international human rights law.
During the three-hour voting session, the original resolution co-sponsored by the Governments of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico and Uruguay was weakened by a series of amendments led by regressive countries like Russia, Pakistan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, urging the other States not to commit, and pledged not to cooperate with the Independent Expert, despite the support the co-sponsors were getting from countries like UK, Switzerland, Netherlands, Germany and France.
The opponents of the resolution, led by Pakistan on behalf of almost all members of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC), succeeded in adding amendments that framed the LGBT rights proposal as a cultural imposition intending to override local values and sovereignty. Other amendments included one urging respect for local values, “religious sensitivities,” or domestic politics and another one suggesting that the resolution undermines universal human rights values to “impose concepts or notions pertaining to social matters, including private individual conduct.” Albania, which is a co-sponsor of the resolution, was the sole member of the OIC to break from the bloc.
In the end, the outcome was positive although most of the amendments suggested by Pakistan and the OIC were adopted.
In the aftermath of the Orlando, Florida attacks in the United States, the International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights, consider this resolution as a huge step in the right direction, congratulates the Latin American Countries that co-sponsored this very timely resolution and looks forward to engage with the new independent expert.
For more information, please contact our Legal Adviser in Geneva, Laia Evia, at Evia@raceandequality.org