GENEVA — The United Nations’ main human rights body on Thursday adopted measures to strengthen protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, despite fierce resistance from Muslim and African countries.
The body, the 47-member Human Rights Council, voted to appoint an independent expert to monitor and report on violence against individuals on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The initiative passed, 23 to 18, with six abstentions.
The vote came after a heated debate during which supporters invoked the victims of the Orlando, Fla., massacre and opponents denounced the measure on religious and cultural grounds.
The debate lasted nearly four hours and was peppered with procedural motions and amendments intended to scuttle the initiative or water it down.
The expert will look into ways to curb violence against gay, bisexual and transgender people; report annually on developments; and support national efforts to combat violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation.
But the Saudi Arabian ambassador, Faisal Bin Hassan, filed a motion to block the resolution, saying that it “ran counter to our beliefs and culture.”
Pakistan’s ambassador, Tehmina Janjua, saying the resolution promoted “certain notions, concepts and lifestyles on which there is no consensus,” proposed a series of amendments on behalf of Islamic states that would have stripped all reference to sexual orientation and gender identity.
“Remember Orlando,” the Mexican ambassador, Jorge Lomónaco, told the packed council chamber. “Let us give hope and dignity to millions.”
The Nigerian envoy, Peters Omologbe Emuze, objected even to the title of the resolution: “Protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.”
The British ambassador, Julian Braithwaite, said in response: “By voting against this resolution you are voting to block the U.N. from trying to stop violence and discrimination. How is that acceptable?”
“This affects people in this room, and people in my team who are L.G.B.T.,” he continued. “Are you saying it is O.K. to discriminate against them based on their sexual orientation and gender identity? To hit, torture, or possibly kill them? Because that is what you are supporting, if you vote against this resolution.”
Human rights groups hailed the outcome.
“By creating a U.N. expert, the Human Rights Council has given official voice to those facing violations because of their sexual orientation or gender identity the world over,” John Fisher, the Geneva director of Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.
“There can be no turning back.”
Article for the New York Times bJune 30, 2016
Read Secretary John Kerry’s full statement on the historic vote on the #HRC32 Resolution on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity to create an Independent Expert to address challenges facing #LGBT persons