“A Historic Moment”

“A historic moment” are the words that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton used to describe the recent passage of the United Nations resolution regarding human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

In a statement, she remarked: “Today, the UN Human Rights Council adopted the first ever UN resolution on the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons. 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.”

Upholding the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the United Nations Human Rights Council adopted the resolution with a vote of 23 to 19. China and two other countries abstained. 

South Africa presented the resolution to the Council along with Brazil and 39 other co-sponsors including the United States and many European Union countries.  It marked the first time a U.N. body has specifically backed the rights of gay, lesbian and transgendered people and has brought new focus to human rights violations and violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

In introducing the resolution, Mr. Jerry Matthews Matjila of South Africa recalled the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, specifically noting that “everyone is entitled to all rights and freedoms without distinction of any kind” and Brazil called on the Council to “open the long closed doors of dialogue.”

Mr. Shafqat Ali Khan of Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference said that the Organization of the Islamic Conference was very concerned that the Council had chosen to discuss very controversial notions that had no basis in  international legal and human rights standards. Along with Russia and Moldova, most African and Muslim countries voted against the resolution, including Asian countries Bangladesh and Maldives. Albania co-sponsored and voted in support of the resolution. The record of votes is at the end of this report, along with the text of the resolution.

Speaking on behalf of the European Union, Mr. Andras Dekany of Hungary said that the EU believed that the resolution was a genuine attempt to create an open and constructive dialogue. He also noted that the resolution did not attempt to create new rights but to affirm existing rights in relation to persons that were the subject of discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation.

In May, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay warned that hate crimes against lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgender people were on the rise around the world. Ms. Pillay stressed that homophobia and transphobia were no different to sexism, racism or xenophobia. “But whereas these last forms of prejudice are universally condemned by governments, homophobia and transphobia are too often overlooked,” she said.

This resolution also calls for a first ever UN report on the challenges that LGBT persons face, which will continue a discussion of how to protect human rights.  Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to carry out a study by December that details “discriminatory laws and practices and acts of violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity, in all regions of the world.”

Human Rights Watch applauded the passage of resolution. Graeme Reid, LGBT rights director at HRW, said “The Human Rights Council has taken a first bold step into territory previously considered off-limits. We hope this groundbreaking step will spur greater efforts to address the horrible abuses and discrimination against people on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity.”

In a media briefing, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Dan Baer said that “Both the President and Secretary Clinton have made LGBT human rights a priority,” and recalled that Secretary Clinton “gave a speech last year in which she said gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights. She has sent out a cable to all ambassadors instructing them that LGBT human rights are part of our comprehensive human rights policy.”

“All over the world, people face human rights abuses and violations because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, including torture, rape, criminal sanctions, and killing. Today’s landmark resolution affirms that human rights are universal,” Clinton concluded her statement.

Resolution on Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity A/HRC/17/L.9/Rev.1
Recalling the universality, interdependence, indivisibility and interrelatedness of human rights as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and consequently elaborated in other human rights instruments, such as the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and other relevant core human rights instruments,

Recalling also that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirms that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights and that everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in that Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth, or other status;

Recalling further General Assembly resolution 60/251 of 15 March 2006, in which the Assembly stated that the Human Rights Council should be responsible for promoting universal respect for the protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, without distinction of any kind and in fair and equal manner,

Expressing 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

1. Requests the High Commissioner to commission a study to be finalized by December 2011, to document discriminatory laws and practices and acts of violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity, in all regions of the world, and how international human rights law can be used to end violence and related human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity;

2. Decides to convene a panel discussion during the 19th session of the Human Rights Council, informed by the facts contained in the study commissioned by the High Commissioner and to have constructive, informed and transparent dialogue on the issue of discriminatory laws and practices and acts of violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity;

3. Decides also that the panel will also discuss the appropriate follow-up to the recommendations of the study commissioned by the High Commissioner;

4. Decides to remain seized of this priority issue.

Records of Vote and Co-Sponsorship
States supporting the resolution: Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, Cuba, Ecuador, France, Guatemala, Hungary, Japan, Mauritius, Mexico, Norway, Poland, Republic of Korea, Slovakia, Spain, Switzerland, Ukraine, Thailand, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay.

States against the resolution: Angola, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Cameroon, Djibouti, Gabon, Ghana, Jordan, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, Moldova, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Uganda.

Abstentions: Burkina Faso, China, Zambia.

Absent: Kyrgyzstan, Libya (suspended).

Co-Sponsors of the resolution: Albania, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Honduras, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Timor-Leste, United Kingdom, United States and Uruguay.

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