UN Report on GLBT Rights: “A positive direction”
Many thought the day would never come. The Unites Nations finally made its report on the state of LGBT human rights public last week, and the release was followed up by strong statements by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The report from the UN High Commission on Human Rights addresses the violence, legal abuse, and discriminatory practices that continue to plague GLBT people. “A positive direction” activists and diplomats agree…
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The head of the High Commission on Human Rights, Navanthem Pillay (who succeeded Canada’s Louise Arbour to the post in 2008), held strong to her message, as articulated in the Human Rights Council resolution from last June on the need for a global report on sexual and gender identity minorities. “Violence against LGBT persons tends to be especially vicious compared to other bias-motivated crimes,” the report noted, citing data indicating that homophobic hate crimes often include “a high degree of cruelty and brutality.”
The worldwide reaction has been mixed, but the Obama administration has been unequivocal: “This represents a historic moment to highlight the human rights abuses and violations that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people face around the world based solely on who they are and whom they love,” U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in a statement.
The resolution expressed “grave concern at acts of violence and discrimination, in all regions of the world, committed against individuals because of their sexual orientation and gender identity,” and the report published Dec. 12th confirmed these concerns. It singles out Iran, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia and Yemen for their religious-based laws that continue to apply the death penalty for homosexuality.
“It’s a very positive direction, and the Obama administration has been moving in a positive direction,” the Unitarian Universalist Church’s UN rep Bruce Knotts told 2Bmag following the release of the report. “You now see major countries standing up for human rights, and you are also going to see some push-back, such as the bills about to be signed in Nigeria and Russia. This is how human rights develop in the world; as you push certain rights forward, it’s discouraging to see other countries pushing back. It means we can’t be complacent, it’s not going to come easily, particularly in some parts of the world, like Jamaica and our own country [the US].” Knotts is part of a UN LGBT Coalition which is comprised of 60 faith-based and some secular organizations to combat homophobia globally. Also known as the “Compass for Compassion” the coalition’s goal is “to combat religious-based homophobia, and provide faith-based answers.” They are gearing up for a conference on LGBT human rights and religion planned for September in Kampala, Uganda.
The danger, long recognized by GLBT activists everywhere, is always that state-supported homophobia – everything from penal codes to same-sex marriage bans – implies that citizens are allowed to treat GLBT people as second class citizens, or worse still, as criminals. The White House in a statement strongly backed the declaration, according to the Huffington Post:
“This marks a significant milestone in the long struggle for equality, and the beginning of a universal recognition that (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) persons are endowed with the same inalienable rights – and entitled to the same protections – as all human beings.”
The resolution calls for a panel discussion next spring with “constructive, informed and transparent dialogue on the issue of discriminatory laws and practices and acts of violence against” GLBT people. Asked what good the U.N. resolution would do for gays and lesbians in countries that opposed the resolution, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary Daniel Baer told the Huffington Post it was a signal “that there are many people in the international community who stand with them and who support them, and that change will come.”
“It’s a historic method of tyranny to make you feel that you are alone,” Baer said. “One of the things that this resolution does for people everywhere, particularly LGBT people everywhere, is remind them that they are not alone.”