[JURIST] The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website] passed the “Human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity” resolution [text, PDF] with a vote of 23-19 and 3 abstentions [UN webcast archive] on Friday. The resolution is the first to call for an end to sexuality discrimination worldwide and to recognize it as a “priority” for the UN. Although the resolution is “binding” to member nations of the UNHRC, it does not address any penalties for violating the act. The resolution “express(es) grave concern at acts of violence and discrimination, in all regions of the world, committed against individuals because of their sexual orientation and gender identity.” It also requests a study and panel to investigate international violence against homosexuals and trans-people. The resolution was introduced by South Africa, the only African nation to vote for its passage. Several African and Middle Eastern nations criticized [AFP report] South Africa and the bill, accusing the nation of “westernizing” and breaking from what “90 percent” of South Africans want, and decrying the UN trying to force controversial ideas with no legal basis on their countries.
The UN has faced difficulty passing resolutions on gay rights issues, due to no international consensus on the morality of homosexuality. Last year, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon [official website] called for countries around the world to abolish laws discriminating against gay and lesbian individuals [JURIST report]. Two years ago, the UN passed a gay rights declaration [text, PDF], which the US signed and sponsored [JURIST report]. The declaration, a nonbinding measure that does not have the full force of a resolution, called on states to end criminalization and persecution of homosexuals. This declaration was recalled by the new resolution. Although 85 countries signed the declaration [US Ambassador statement], 57 countries, primarily in Africa and the Middle East, signed an opposing statement. The year before, the UN General Assembly [official website] was divided over the issue of decriminalizing homosexuality [JURIST report] as 66 nations signed a statement calling for decriminalization, and nearly 60 nations signed an opposing statement. As of the 2011 International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) [advocacy website] State-Sponsored Homophobia report [text, PDF], 76 countries still criminalize same-sex relationships, and five enforce the death penalty against homosexuals.