A resolution read at the United Nations
General Assembly that addressed rights violations based on sexual
orientation and gender identity has proven controversial.
Thursday's resolution calling for the
universal decriminalization of being gay was met with an equally
forceful, Arab-backed statement opposing it.
The pro-gay statement – initiated by
France and the Netherlands – gathered 66 signatures after it was
read in the chamber, but an anti-gay statement, read out by a Syrian
delegate, gathered 60, reports the Reuters news agency.
Approximately one-third of all nations, including the U.S., pledged
The Arab-backed statement condemned
homosexuality: “[Decriminalizing homosexuality could lead] to the
social normalization, and possibly the legitimization, of many
deplorable acts including pedophilia.”
“We note with concern the attempts to
create 'new rights' or 'new standards', by misinterpreting the
Universal Declaration and internal treaties to include such notions
that were never articulated nor agreed by the general membership,”
The pro-gay statement condemns
violence, harassment, discrimination, exclusion, stigmatization and
prejudice based on sexual orientation and gender identity. And
declares that targeting gays for executions or killings, torture,
arbitrary arrest or deprivation of economic, social and cultural
rights is wrong.
More than 80 countries have laws
against homosexuality, including nine that prescribe death as
punishment. Many of these countries are located in Africa and the
A Human Rights Watch report delivered
on December 17 found that more than half of the world's remaining
laws criminalizing being gay are relics of British colonial rule.
The roots of anti-gay laws from nearly
40 countries can be traced back to a single instance imposed by
British colonial rulers on India in 1860, say the authors of This
Alien Legacy: The Origins of “Sodomy” Laws in British
Colonialism. Ironically, homosexuality remains illegal in India,
where the UN has pressured a high court to abolish the practice. A
decision is expected early next year.
“From Malaysia to Uganda, governments
use these laws to harass civil society, restrict free expression,
discredit enemies, and destroy lives,” said Scott Long, director of
the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights program at Human
Rights Watch. “And sodomy laws add to the spread of HIV/AIDS by
criminalizing outreach to affected groups.
Gay rights leaders in the United States
were appalled to learn of the Vatican's opposition to the resolution
because it might promote gay marriage.
“As faith leaders we were shocked by
Vatican opposition to this proposed initiative,” a coalition of gay
rights leaders said in a statement. “Most Catholics, and indeed
most Catholic teachings, tell us that all people are entitled to live
with basic human dignity without the threat of violence.”
The statement signed on by the Human
Rights Campaign, along with faith program directors from the National
Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against
Defamation and National Black Justice Coalition also urged “U.S.
leaders to stand against discrimination.”
In the end, no resolution was drafted
on the issue and the two seemingly contradictory statements remain
open for further signatures.
Louis-Georges Tin, the founder of the
International Day against Homophobia (IDAHO), who believes that the
gay community will not advanced until societal homophobia is
eradicated said: “It is a great achievement that this initiative
has made it to the level of the General Assembly. It shows our
common struggles are successful and should be reinforced.”