Dozens of countries still have antigay laws, but LGBT citizens around the world have a new reason to hope for change. On Friday, the United Nations Human Rights Council adopted a resolution to address violence and discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.
The resolution, which passed in a 25-14 vote (seven countries abstained from voting), calls for the U.N. high commissioner for human rights to update a 2012 report on LGBT rights violations and propose practices to combat them. Because it doesn’t outline any enforcement capability, many see the resolution as a largely symbolic move. But it’s only the second time the U.N. has affirmed that LGBT rights are “human rights,” so advocates are optimistic.
“While we would have preferred to see an institutionalized reporting mechanism, the council has still sent a strong message of support to human rights defenders working on these issues,” said Jonas Bagas, executive director of TLF Share, a gay rights NGO in the Philippines, according to the Humans Rights Watch. “We look forward to states implementing the outcomes of these reports.”
Not everyone is happy, however.
“We feel there is an attempt to impose uniculturality [that] runs counter to religious and cultural practices of some countries,” Saudi Arabia’s representative said during discussion. “In my opinion, this [resolution] is a human rights violation.”
The resolution exposes the global divide on LGBT rights. The 14 countries that voted against it include the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kenya, and Ethiopia.
“We know, of course, that the struggle is long, and that we will need the council to focus on the violations we suffer for many years to come,” Jessica Stern, executive director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, said after the resolution passed.
“But for now, we celebrate that the majority of states stood with us to declare, unequivocally, that human rights are for everyone, everywhere.”
States That Supported the Resolution
Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Cuba, Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Montenegro, Peru, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Romania, South Africa, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, United Kingdom, United States of America, Venezuela, Vietnam
States Against the Resolution
Algeria, Botswana, Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Gabon, Indonesia, Kenya, Kuwait, Maldives, Morocco, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, the Russian Federation
Burkina Faso, China, Congo, Kazakhstan, Namibia, Sierra Leone, India