By Melanie Nathan, November, 07, 2016.
Several African countries are demanding that the appointment of a United Nations expert on LGBT rights be suspended, saying his mission to report on anti-gay violence had nothing to do with human rights.
In September the UN Human Rights Council appointed to a three year term, international law professor Vitit Muntarbhorn of Thailand to investigate abuses against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people worldwide. The expert is tasked with country visits, to look into allegations of LGBT rights violations, violence and to work with governments and to protect human rights defenders. The appointment of an LGBT expert was adopted by a vote of 23-18 with 6 abstentions, reflecting the deep divisions internationally on gay rights.
The U.N. has worked against much resistance from China, Russia, African and Middle Eastern countries to improve the rights of the LGBT communities. At least 76 countries have laws used to criminalize and persecute people on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity or expression, including laws criminalizing consensual same-sex relationships among adults.
Speaking on behalf of African countries, Botswana’s ambassador, Charles Ntwaagae, used a pivot, in essence deflection, when providing the the General Assembly committee with the inane argument that the council that African nations “are alarmed” that the Human Rights Council is delving into national matters and attempting to focus on people “on the grounds of their sexual interests and behaviors, while ignoring that intolerance and discrimination regrettably exist in various parts of the world, be it on the basis of color, race, sex or religion, to mention only a few.” He went on to note: “We wish to state that those two notions are not and should not be linked to existing international human rights instruments,” said Charles Ntwaagae.
The 54-nation African Group presented a draft UN resolution demanding consultations on the legality of the new expert’s mandate and said the appointment should be put on hold:
“We therefore call for the suspension of the activities of the appointed independent expert pending the determination of this issue,” said Ntwaagae.
A total of 73 countries – almost 40% of all UN members – still have laws criminalizing homosexuality, with several seeking to make those laws harsher. In Africa, 33 countries have anti-gay laws.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who has been a champion for LGBT rights in the UN, while receiving an award from Elton John Foundation, reminded the world of his controversial stance: “I like to remind others that LGBT people are just that – they’re people,” Ban said in his acceptance speech.“They are worth just as much as anyone else. And they are born with the same inalienable rights as everyone else.”
The measure is expected to come up for a vote on Tuesday.
Observers believe that the idea to suspend the role is the first step on the part of these African Nations to eradicate the position of the LGBT Expert in its entirety. Of course these nations are intent on keeping the truth off the international stage, as it will reveal their complicit and overt participation in the abuse and persecution of LGBT people. Their quest serves to prop up a milieu fraught with anti-homosexuality violence, as fostered by the laws they seek to protect and reinforce, with even harsher legislation, in their respective countries.
The most shameful participant in this debacle is South Africa, which surprisingly abstained in the voting for the LGBT Expert. The SA Constitution is unique in Africa and in the world, as it specifically protects LGBT sexuality and gender identity and expression. Yet South Africa has failed its own Constitution and its human rights role on the continent:
Once again betraying its constitutional obligations, the South African government is working with other African countries to block a major LGBTI rights victory at the United Nations.
It’s been revealed that South Africa has signed on to a letter and (by implication) a resolution that aim to suspend the recently established position of an Independent Expert on Protection against Violence and Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.