BY TODD STEVEN BURROUGHS, The Root
ile the citizens of the United States decide their nation’s direction Tuesday, the 193 members of the United Nations also have an important vote: The U.N. is dealing with a serious human rights concern involving the human rights of LGBTQIA people versus the sovereignty rights of Africans to handle their own internal affairs on their own terms. Tuesday will tell whether Botswana’s U.N. ambassador, Charles Ntwaagae, and the representatives of several African nations are successful in pushing the U.N. to stop its first expert LGBT human rights monitor.
The U.N.’s Human Rights Council on Sept. 30 appointed Vitit Muntarbhorn of Thailand to the new job, which lasts for three years. (The council’s vote to establish the post was 23-18, with six abstentions, far from harmonious agreement that the new gig was necessary or wanted.)
Ntwaagae is speaking for the 54-member African Group, which wrote the resolution (pdf) presented to the world body this past Friday. (It’s not clear what the vote was among the continent’s individual countries.) This African bloc to block—which would postpone the HRC resolution establishing the post and, in effect, suspend Muntarbhorn—could undermine the council.
From the Associated Press:
Ntwaagae said African nations “are alarmed” that the [United Nations] Human Rights Council is delving into national matters and attempting to focus on people “on the grounds of their sexual interests and behaviors, while ignoring that intolerance and discrimination regrettably exist in various parts of the world, be it on the basis of color, race, sex or religion, to mention only a few.”
African nations are also concerned that sexual orientation and gender identity are being given attention “to the detriment of issues of paramount importance such as the right to development and the racism agenda,” he said.
Ntwaagae said African countries want to stress that sexual orientation and gender identity “are not and should not be linked to existing international human rights instruments.”
This dodge is not an uncommon one around the world. Back to AP:
The U.N. has worked to improve the rights of the LGBT community in recent years but has repeatedly run into opposition from some member states—especially from countries in the Middle East and Africa as well as China and Russia. According to a U.N. human rights report last year, at least 76 countries retain laws used to criminalize and harass people on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity or expression, including laws criminalizing consensual same-sex relationships among adults.