United Nations votes to create first LGBT rights watchdog

© Abir Anwar via Flickr

The United Nations have voted to create their first ever LGBT human rights watchdog.

Passed on 30 June by a vote of 23 in favour to 18 against, with six abstentions, the new resolution promises to provide “protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation, and gender identity”.

It means that, for the first time ever, an independent expert will be appointed to monitor LGBT discrimination and violence, marking the most ambitious effort to advance LGBT rights within the UN yet.

Previous resolutions adopted by the Council in 2011 and 2014 called for the human rights office to prepare reports looking into LGBT rights, but there have been few mentions of LGBT issues in the UN elsewhere.

John Fisher, Geneva director at Human Rights Watch, said: “Today, the UN took a historic step forward. By creating a UN expert, the Human Rights Council has given official voice to those facing violations because of their sexual orientation or gender identity the world over.

“There can be no turning back, and we look forward to working with civil society colleagues and the new UN expert toward a world free from violence and discrimination for all people regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity.”

638 non-governmental organisations from 151 countries signed a joint statement of support, claiming: “In countries and regions around the world, individuals experience grave human rights violations on the basis of their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.

“It’s time for the UN Human Rights Council to take meaningful action to end these abuses and advance positive reforms.”

However, nearly all members of the Organisation for Islamic Cooperation, led by Pakistan, opposed the resolution and managed to add a number of amendments, including a request for respect for local values and “religious sensitivities”.

Meanwhile, South Africa abstained from voting on the new measures, despite supporting the UN’s first LGBT rights resolution, claiming that sponsors had been “arrogant and confrontational”.

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