The United Nations General Assembly tonight voted 93 for, 55 against with 27 abstaining to reinsert 'sexual orientation' into a resolution condemning extrajudicial killings. The vote followed the United States insistence on bringing the resolution back for another vote.
It was removed last month in a move led by African and Islamic countries.
This means that 23 nations changed their vote to yes, 15 didn't vote no and nine more abstained - 47 in total went in a positive direction. This is a quarter of the UN membership.
- One third of African countries changed their vote positively, including Rwanda and Angola voting yes.
- Almost the whole of the Caribbean changed their vote positively, including Jamaica.
The reference to 'legal definition' was a pointed reference to the argument of other African countries, led by Benin, as well as the Islamic countries, led by Tajikistan and Arab countries, led by UAE, that 'sexual orientation' wasn't defined and wasn't covered by international human rights agreements.
The debate also saw South Africa pointedly reverse its previous vote citing its constitutional protections for LGBT but at the same time lamenting the 'sensitive' nature of the subject. Colombia, which had previously abstained, spoke strongly in favour.
A low point came from the Zimbabwean delegate who said sexual orientation "is not a human right" and compared it to bestiality and pedophilia.As well the Benin delegate said that 'this vote determines the very future of humanity! and that it "go down in annals of history".
As well as the United States, the EU and other countries, numerous human rights organisations as well as individual activists have been lobbying UN delegates for the past two weeks.Cuba's Foreign Ministry met with LGBT representatives prior to the vote, though it did not say whether it would reverse it's previous support for the removal of sexual orientation from the resolution.
The full break down of the vote is now available. Here's how the votes changed:
Absent to yes:
- Marshall Island
- Cape Verde
- Papau New Guinea
- Saint Kitts and Nevis
- South Africa
- Saint Vincent and Grenadines
- Viet Nam
- Cote d’Ivoire
Updated to add:
“We are very happy for the outcome of this vote,” said Gloria Careaga and Renato Sabbadini, ILGA co-Secretaries General, “as it restores the original inclusive language of the resolution on extra-judicial executions and acknowledges that indeed many people around the world are killed every year because of their sexual orientation. We also know that many people are killed because of their gender identity or expression and we believe that the language of the resolution should refer to this as well – a proposal to be taken in consideration in the future by all UN Members which voted in favour of today's amendment.”
“In the meantime, however,” continued the co-Secretaries General, “we want to celebrate the victory over the forces which tried to push the reference to sexual orientation into oblivion one month ago, still refuse, in theory and in practice, to acknowledge that human rights are truly for all, LGBTI people included, and – what is perhaps worse – grotesquely mask their homophobia and transphobia by referring to the universality of the Human Rights Declaration and indecently try to include under the term “sexual orientation” bestiality and paedophilia.”
"This, of course, could not have happened without the concerted and passionate efforts of several governments. But what this victory also demonstrates is the power of civil society at the UN and working across countries and regions to demand that their own governments vote to protect LGBT lives." said Cary Alan Johnson, Executive Director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC). "The outpouring of support from the international community sent the strong message to our representatives at the UN that it is unacceptable to make invisible the deadly violence LGBT people face because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation."
Hillary Clinton said:
I am pleased by the UN General Assembly’s action today to include sexual orientation in a resolution condemning extrajudicial and summary executions. The United States introduced this language to send an unequivocal message in concert with our many international partners: No one should be killed for who they are.America's UN Ambassador, Susan Rice, said:
Sadly, many people around the world continue to be targeted and killed because of their sexual orientation. These heinous crimes must be condemned and investigated wherever they occur. We look forward to continuing our work with others around the world to protect the human rights of those facing threats or discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
The voices of civil society and human rights defenders around the world have been heard today, and for that my delegation is especially proud. Less than two weeks after we celebrated the 62nd anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, today’s vote ensures that the principles enshrined in that Declaration are put into practice – and indeed live on – in the 21st Century.Peter Tatchell, Human Rights Campaigner, said:
This is a very significant development. This reversal to include sexual orientation is a small but notable victory in the long battle for global LGBT freedom. It signals that protests and lobbying can have a positive effect, even in the rarefied chamber of the UN General Assembly. We must redouble our efforts to get the UN to vote in favour of the Universal decriminalisation of homosexuality.The White House said:
President Obama applauds those countries that supported the amendment offered by the United States to ensure that “sexual orientation” remains covered by the United Nations resolution on extrajudicial, summary, and arbitrary execution. Killing people because of their sexual orientation cannot be rationalized by diverse religious values or varying regional perspectives. Killing people because they are gay is not culturally defensible – it is criminal.Inner City Press reports that the American abstention from the final resolution on extrajudicial killings after the sexual orientation inclusion vote was related to reported criticism of the US' use of drones in Pakistan and elsewhere. If so, this would be similar reasoning to their earlier abstention. Prior to the vote a spokesman for Ambassador Rice told them that while the US will probably as in previous years and as in committee abstain from the resolution against arbitrary executions - due among other things to what he called mischaracterizations of international humanitarian law - the US feels it has made progress with the sponsors and “aspires” to join consensus on the resolution in two years' time.
While today’s adoption of an inclusive resolution is important, so too are the conversations that have now begun in capitals around the world about inclusion, equality, and discrimination. Protecting gays and lesbians from state-sponsored discrimination is not a special right, it is a human right. Today’s vote in the United Nations marks an important moment in the struggle for civil and human rights. The time has come for all nations to redouble our efforts to end discrimination and violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.
Un Lgbt Extra Judicial Killings Vote