Saturday, 4 December 2010

United Nations Human Rights Fail

The UN general assembly passes a resolution every two years condemning extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions. The resolution specifies killing for racial, national, ethnic or religious reasons and the killing of refugees, street children and indigenous people, among other groups.

But this time, it has left sexual orientation off the list with an amendment replacing a resolution that has stood for the last ten years. Instead there is a rather feeble 'discriminatory reasons on any basis'.

There are 76 countries where homosexuality is a criminal offence, six where it's punishable by death, which are Saudi Arabia, Iran, Mauritania, Nigeria, Sudan and Yemen - and Uganda is considering adding the death penalty to its laws criminalising homosexuality.

The amendment passed by 79 votes to 70. Seventeen countries abstained and 26 were absent. The 79 were the six where homosexuality is punishable by death and the rest included Uganda, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Lebanon, Kenya, Algeria, Tunisia, Jamaica, Malaysia, China and the Bahamas. South Africa also voted for it, despite being the first country to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Two other countries in favour of removing sexual orientation from the list were the Russian Federation and Qatar where the next two FIFA World Cups will be held.

Britain and the US condemned the motion. But the resolution was approved by the committee, which includes all 192 member states with 165 in favour, 10 abstentions (including the USA) and no votes against. This means that even though 70 countries voted against the amendment, not one voted against the final resolution.

The Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions has highlighted documented cases of extrajudicial killings on the grounds of sexual orientation including individuals facing the death penalty for consensual sex; individuals tortured to death by State actors because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation; paramilitary groups killing individuals because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation as part of “social cleansing” campaigns; individuals murdered by police officers with impunity because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation; and States failing to investigate hate crimes and killings of people because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation.

So not only can you be murdered for being gay, you could well be killed just because someone thinks you are, or it suits them to think you are. Being bi or transgender is just as dangerous.

There is a belief in many member states that homosexuality is a western disease, that being gay is a choice and that it's un-Christian or un-African or un-Islamic. Western countries are often reluctant to criticise or get involved with the laws and cultures of other countries for fear of being accused of cultural imperialism.

Any brutal practise that is claimed to be traditional, religious or cultural - such as FGM, for example - can be considered off-limits whereas actions like the killing of street children are widely condemned. Moral relativism rears its ugly head, especially when the religion card is played, so critics back off and do the dance of cultural appeasement.

It's much easier to come to the defence of children, indigenous peoples or other groups that are not condemned by orthodox religion, for a start. There are very few countries that disapprove of homosexuality for other than religious reasons (although China is one of them).

The fact that the UN previously included sexual orientation in the list didn't stop many countries actively persecuting and executing LGBT people but now that it is not even explicitly on the list, there will be even less incentive to respect their human rights or to be covert about the murders, LGBT rights workers will have an even harder job and lives will be lost as the West stands by and wrings its hands.

1 comment:

  1. I am surprised at the response of China. It may be a hard-line regime but I always thought that was on the basis of pragmatism, such as the death penalty for drug trafficking or to limit the number of children in families. It may be brutal, but at least there was a thread of logic to it. Is China's response to homosexuality based on cultural/religious beliefs or do the Chinese government advisors have access to science-based information that suggests that to allow homosexuals free expression would be detrimental to society? Do any of the anti-gay nations provide any reason or evidence for their response?