UN says it’s okay to kill gays: Really?
There are various kinds of comments whirling around the LGBT interwebs about a recent vote in the United Nations. Many of them boil down to making an assertion along the lines of: “The UN says it’s okay to kill gays!”
Not only is this untrue, I think it’s dangerous to progressing the cause of LGBT rights at the international level. So, what are the rumours, and what are the facts?
Screaming headlines such as, “Countries vote to accept execution of gays” from PinkPaper.co.uk (not to be confused with PinkNews.co.uk), tweets and Facebook updates a-plenty; even the kind-of-but-not-really-accurate headline, “UN votes against protecting gays from execution”, from The Raw Story – these all misrepresent what actually happened at the UN.
The facts are there to read for yourselves, if you visit Reuters, or Evelyn Leopold’s excellent article at HuffPo – or even over at Queerty, with the not-really-misleading-but-it-actually-kind-of-is article headline, “Why It’s No Big Deal Gays Weren’t Added To The United Nation’s Special List Of People Not To Slaughter”.
In short, what took place was that a draft resolution against on extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions was being put to a vote for final approval. The resolution included a list of particular prohibited reasons, and groups who were to be protected from such unlawful killings, such as: racial, national, ethnic, religious or linguistic reasons; and killings of refugees, indigenous people. Included in the resolution, according to Evelyn Leopold, were paragraphs urging investigations of all killings “committed for any discriminatory reason, including sexual orientation” (actual or perceived).
On behalf of Islamic and African nations, respectively, Morocco and Mali proposed an amendment to the resolution to delete the words “sexual orientation” and replace that phrase with “discriminatory reasons on any basis”. The amendment was passed – by less than a handful of votes.
Arguably, then, LGBs are still protected under the resolution, although not specifically mentioned. (Notably, it seems that there was never any mention of gender identity, or similar wording, so that trans or intersex people were not specifically listed. I’m open to correction on that, however.)
That’s not to say, of course, that things are rosy and that what happened at the UN isn’t deeply worrying.
The entire point of the resolution was to protect specifically persecuted groups. Report after report has been prepared and submitted to the UN by independent experts (known as Special Rapporteurs), including reports detailing killings of LGB people. After the vote, Philippe Bolopion of Human Rights Watch told Reuters:
It’s a step backwards and it’s extremely disappointing that some countries felt the need to remove the reference to sexual orientation, when sexual orientation is the very reason why so many people around the world have been subjected to violence.
The UK delegation at the vote read a statement into the record saying that killings of gays is “a continuing cause for concern.”
It should be mentioned that a lot of lobbying work goes on at the UN, by NGOs and expert organisations; and also by two notable entities. One is the Vatican (or Holy See), which is not a member state at the United Nations, but does have permanent observer status. The other is the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC). Each of these lobbies heavily to influence the content of UN resolutions, treaties, motions, reports and so on. Sometimes – almost incredibly – the Vatican and OIC work closely together in their lobbying. The most obvious example are their joint efforts against the inclusion of any references to sexual orientation in UN documents.
Why are the rumours about this resolution dangerous?
In my view, at least, the shrill hyperbole irresponsibly circulating at the moment accuses the United Nations (as a single entity, it should be noted) of virtually signing the death warrants of gays around the world. This is dangerous, I think, because it detracts from the real challenges faced by gays around the world. It also misconstrues the resolution, even with its amendment, as being weaker than it actually is.
The UN resolution: Where does Ireland stand?
I contacted the Permanent Mission of Ireland to the UN in New York to ask about their involvement concerning this resolution.
A spokesman replied to Gaelick late last night to outline Ireland’s position:
Ireland has traditionally co-sponsored the draft resolution on “Extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions” and actively participated in the informal negotiations on this most recent version in New York over the last six weeks. Ireland participated in meetings of the co-sponsors of this resolution, where it was decided to oppose attempts to delete the reference to “sexual orientation” in the text, which has been included in the resolution since the 57th session of the UN General Assembly in 2002.
Ireland voted against the amendment brought by Morocco and Mali (on behalf of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference and the African Group respectively), which removed the reference to sexual orientation. Regrettably, the amendment was narrowly passed by 79 votes in favour, with 70 votes against and 17 abstentions.
The resolution as a whole was then voted on and, given the overall importance of this traditional resolution, Ireland voted in favour notwithstanding our reservations on the deletion of the reference to sexual orientation. The amended resolution was adopted by 165 votes in favour, none against and 10 abstaining.
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