African states failed on Monday to halt the work of the first UN independent investigator appointed to help protect gay and transgender people worldwide from violence and discrimination. The Guardian writes.
The 47-member UN Human Rights Council, based in Geneva, created the position in June and in September appointed Vitit Muntarbhorn of Thailand, who has a three-year mandate to investigate violence and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people.
At the UN Third Committee of General Assembly, which deals with human rights issues, African countries put forward a draft resolution calling for consultations on the legality of the creation of the mandate. They said the work of the investigator should be suspended.
However, Western countries successfully proposed an amendment to the draft resolution that gutted the African group draft resolution. The amendment was adopted in the Third Committee on Monday with 84 votes in favor, 77 against and 17 abstentions. It’s noteworthy to say that Armenia voted abstain to the amendment, Georgia voted in favour and Azerbaijan voted against.
The amended draft resolution, which makes no change to the work of the gay rights investigator, was then adopted by the third committee with 94 votes in favor, 3 against and 80 abstentions.
Russian Federation and Egypt representatives, speaking on behalf of Organization of Islamic Cooperation consisting of 57 members, objected recognizing the mandate of the gay rights investigator and cooperating with Muntarbhorn.
The UN has announced that in at least 73 countries being gay is still considered to be a criminal offence. The issue of gay rights consistently sparks heated debate at the United Nations.
In 2014 UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon announced that the United Nations will recognize all same-sex marriages of staff allowing them to receive UN benefits. Last year Russia made an unsuccessful attempt to overturn the move with the support of 43 countries, including Saudi Arabia, China, Iran, India, Egypt, Pakistan and Syria.
In February, the 25-member Group of Friends of the Family, which is led by Belarus, Egypt, and Qatar, joined the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the Africa Group in protesting the issuance of six UN stamps promoting tolerance and LGBT equality.
Then a group of 51 Muslim states blocked 11 gay and transgender organizations from officially attending a high-level U.N. meeting in June on ending AIDS, sparking a protest by the United States, Canada and the European Union.