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Africa: Fire new UN gay rights envoy

November 5, 2016

African states have drafted a resolution, calling for the suspension of the UN's new LGBTI investigator. The 54-member Africa group says concentrating on gay rights takes away from other issues, including racism.

Uganda Homosexuell vor einem Regenbogenfahne
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/R. Vassie

Speaking on behalf of African countries, Botswana's ambassador told a General Assembly human rights committee on Friday that the council should not be looking into "sexual orientation and gender identity".

"Those two notions are not and should not be linked to existing international human rights instruments," said Charles Ntwaagae.

The 54-national African Group said it opposes the creation of an independent investigator to investigate human rights violations against Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) people.

Infografik Länder Afrika in denen gleichgeschlechtliche Beziehungen illegal sind Englisch

The group is concerned that gay rights issues would take precedence over "other issues of paramount importance, such as the right to development and the racism agenda."

Experienced rights champion

International law professor Vitit Muntarbhorn of Thailand was appointed in September by the UN Human Rights Council.Muntarbhorn's three-year mandate to fight anti-gay crimes was approved despite strong objections from several Muslim countries.

Vitit Muntarbhorn UN Menschenrechtsrat Genf 16.09.2013
Image: Jean-Marc Ferre/UN Geneva/cc-by-nc-nd-2.0

His appointment was made after research revealed how hundreds of LGBTI people have been killed and thousands injured in recent years due to their sexuality. Muntarbhorn is due to carry out country visits, and raise allegations of rights violations with UN members.

The draft resolution questioning the legality of Muntarbhorn's mandate will be put to a vote on Tuesday. If adopted it would then need to be voted upon later this year by the General Assembly.

Discrimination still dominates

Seventy-three countries - almost 40 percent of all UN members - still have laws on their books making homosexuality a crime.

In Africa alone, 33 states have anti-gay laws including Uganda, Nigeria, Sudan and Mauritania.

But the UN has made concerted efforts to boost the rights of LGBTI people by affirming that there should be no discrimination or violence against people based on their sexual orientation.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon came under fire from many member-states including Russia when he decided in 2015 to extend benefits to the same-sex partners of UN employees.

In February the African Group, the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the 25-member "Group of Friends of the Family," led by Egypt, Belarus and Qatar, protested the launch of six UN stamps promoting LGBTI equality.

Then a group of 51 Muslim states blocked 11 gay and transgender organizations from officially attending a high-level UN meeting in June on ending AIDS, sparking a protest by the United States, Canada and the European Union.

Uganda – One woman fighting homophobia

mm/kl (AFP, Reuters)