85 Nations Agree: Gay People Deserve Protection From Discrimination

85 countries signed a statement by the United Nations Human Rights Council to support gay rights on March 22.

By signing the statement, nations “call on States to take steps to end acts of violence, criminal sanctions and related human rights violations committed against individuals because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, encourage Special Procedures, treaty bodies and other stakeholders to continue to integrate these issues within their relevant mandates, and urge the Council to address these important human rights issues.” While the statement acknowledges that there has been some progress recently in human rights w/r/t sexual orientation and gender identity, it also acknowledges that there’s a lot left to do.

Earlier this month, Obama called for international support in fighting discrimination:

“Human rights are the inalienable right of every person, no matter who they are or who they love. The U.S. government is firmly committed to supporting the right of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals to lead productive and dignified lives, free from fear and violence.”

And he (and the U.S., which is a member of the Human Rights Council and is trying to renew that membership despite concerns about its “biased and disproportionate focus on Israel”) got it. From 85 countries. The U.S. ambassador Susan Rice called the statement “historic.” In a joint release, Amnesty International, The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, and the Human Rights Watch called it “unprecedented.”

But predictably, not everyone supported defending gay rights.

+ Before signing the (non-binding) statement, the ambassador from South Africa proposed creating a new group to study “new concepts such as sexual orientation” before trying to integrate them into international policy. Groups such as Lawyers for Human Rights and the Gay and Lesbian Equality Project contested this, obviously. South Africa eventually signed along with everyone else.

+ The ambassador from Nigeria spoke against the statement, reportedly on behalf of the Africa Group, invoking heterosexuality, God, and saying that both men and women are needed to make babies. The Africa Group was previously behind a vote to remove sexual orientation from a resolution that protects against arbitrary execution. However, the ambassador still said that sexual orientation should not be criminalized. Nigeria did not sign the statement.

+ The ambassador from Pakistan, speaking on behalf of 57 nations in which Muslim people are a majority, argued against the statement and didn’t sign.

+ The Russian ambassador reportedly said that “these people” do not deserve “special rights” and also didn’t sign.

But! Countries such as Dominica, Honduras, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, and the Central African Republic did sign. Which is awesome, and makes it seem slightly more likely that the vision of a unified global stance against anti-gay violence can become a reality.

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Ryan Yates

Ryan Yates was the NSFW Editor (2013–2018) and Literary Editor for Autostraddle.com, with bylines in Nylon, Refinery29, The Toast, Bitch, The Daily Beast, Jezebel, and elsewhere. They live in Los Angeles and also on twitter and instagram.

Ryan has written 1142 articles for us.


    • me neither

      I especially enjoy how some countries still refer to gay people as “these people” / as something separate that they don’t want to have to deal with.

  1. Oh Pakistan *facepalm*

    As the documentary A Jihad For Love shows, homosexuality and Islam are a lot more complicated than anyone else lets on.

    Albania’s Muslim-majority and they’re talking about legalising gay marriage. Indonesia, Jordan, Mali, Bangladesh, Turkey, they’re all more secular but still Muslim-majority – who spoke for them?

    A breakdown of countries would be useful.

    • Signatories are in the first link. I shall reproduce them here:

      “Delivered by Colombia on behalf of: Albania, Andorra, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Bosnia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, the Central African Republic, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lichtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the former-Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Malta, the Marshall Islands, Mexico, Micronesia, Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Nauru, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Palau, Panama, Paraguay, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Rwanda, Samoa, San Marino, Serbia, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Tuvalu, the United States of America, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Ukraine, Uruguay, Vanuatu, and Venezuela”

  2. Pingback: Autostraddle — 85 Nations Agree: Gay People Deserve Protection … | MyGaySpot

  3. God damnit, I thought Russia was cool..

    And as to the statements from the Nigerian ambassador…we all know love and relationships are purely about procreation.. -_-


    I guess in the end though, this is a positive step forward; but there is still much to be done.

    • Out of curiosity, why did you think Russia is cool, at least in regards to LGBT? I mean, not to say that any particular country in the C.I.S. is homo-friendly, but Russia is especially bad (because in general they’re the most xenophobic of CIS nations). Gay Pride parades in Moscow have been systematically and repeatedly shut down because of police and civilian brutality. In Ukraine, its more liberal (ha!) neighbour, the LGBT is a community that doesn’t “exist” – it’s easier to pretend that there are no gay people because then you don’t have to worry about protecting them.

      All the same – very happy that 85 are taking the right steps towards limiting (ending?) persecution.

    • Don’t you know? Uteruses and testicles just DRY UP when you sleep with someone of the same gender!

      (…why did my spellcheck want to change “uteruses” into “ute ruses?!”)

  4. “new concepts such as sexual orientation”

    You mean like when people are attracted to other people? Is that new? I’m confused again. >:/

  5. This means nothing. Look at the list of countries that signed the international declaration for women.

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