UN rights council passes gay rights bill

The UN Human Rights Council passed a historic resolution that seeks equal rights for everyone regardless of their sexual orientation.

Updated: Jun 18, 2011, 10:13 AM IST

Geneva: The UN Human Rights Council passed a historic resolution on Friday that seeks equal rights for everyone regardless of their sexual orientation, marking progress for gay rights despite strong Arab and African opposition.

The resolution was passed narrowly with 23 votes in favour, 19 against and three abstentions, after an emotional debate that saw African states accusing South Africa of breaking ranks with the region and siding with the West after it introduced the issue.

Presenting the text, South Africa`s ambassador Jerry Matthews Matjila said that "no one should be subject to discrimination or violence due to sexual orientation or gender identity".

It also stressed that the resolution "does not seek to impose values on states, but seeks to initiate dialogue" on the issue.

Geneva: The UN Human Rights Council passed a historic resolution on Friday that seeks equal rights for everyone regardless of their sexual orientation, marking progress for gay rights despite strong Arab and African opposition.

The resolution was passed narrowly with 23 votes in favour, 19 against and three abstentions, after an emotional debate that saw African states accusing South Africa of breaking ranks with the region and siding with the West after it introduced the issue.

Presenting the text, South Africa`s ambassador Jerry Matthews Matjila said that "no one should be subject to discrimination or violence due to sexual orientation or gender identity".

It also stressed that the resolution "does not seek to impose values on states, but seeks to initiate dialogue" on the issue.

"It is interesting that Western countries are your partners today," he told South Africa.

But Friday`s move was hailed as historic by other states including Argentina and the United States as well as by rights activists.

"Today we make history in the fight for basic fairness and equality," declared US envoy Eileen Donahoe.

"Today we`ve taken an important step forward in our recognition that human rights are indeed universal. We recognise that violence against a person because of who they are is wrong.

"The right to choose who we love and to share life with those we love is sacred. Further, we send the unequivocal message that each human being deserves equal protection from violence and discrimination," she added.

French ambassador Jean-Baptiste Mattei also described the result of the vote as a "breakthrough".

The resolution was "not about imposing values or a model but to prevent people from becoming victims of discrimination or violence because of their sexual orientation", he said.

The resolution "affirms that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights and that everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms ... without distinction of any kind".

It also commissions a study on discriminatory laws and violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.

Ahead of the vote, Amnesty International`s UN representative Peter Splinter told AFP that the resolution was "very significant to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals in their struggle towards the full enjoyment of their human rights that such violations of their human rights are recognised at this high level".

Homosexuality is still illegal in 76 countries, according to Amnesty.

Bureau Report