In a historic move, a resolution on the creation of an Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) was passed despite stiff opposition from some countries. The resolution was passed with 23 votes in favour, 18 in opposition and 6 absentions. India abstained from voting for the resolution.
Six Latin American countries had put forward a resolution at the UN on protection against violence & discrimination based on sexual orientation and for the creation of the post of a UN Independent Expert who will address human rights violations on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
There was stiff opposition to the resolution from a number of homophobic countries including Islamic countries, China and Russia. A number of amendments were passed to dilute the resolution.
The debate that ensued had Mexican Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Mexico at UN, Jorge Lomonaco, call out the hypocrisy of nations who had mourned the loss of lives in the Orlando shooting and were now opposing international efforts to fight homophobia.
Saudi Arabia, which is head of the UNHRC, opposed the resolution and called sexual orientation a purely behavioral trait, while Russia said it will not cooperate with any such expert. Nigeria mentioned the “supremacy of the natural law”, whereas Morocco said that homosexuality goes against values of 1.5 billion Muslims.
While India had always voted in favour of LGBT rights at International forums earlier, since the NDA government took over, it has either abstained or voted in favour of anti-LGBT resolutions. In June 2014, India had voted in favour of a resolution that excluded LGBT families, then again in September 2014, India abstained from voting on a resolution condemning discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. In March 2015, India once again joined hands with homophobic countries to vote in favour of a Russian resolution to block staff benefits from being extended to all same-sex couples working at the UN, regardless of the laws in their home country.
The NDA government has been unclear about its stand on homosexuality, with some ministers speaking in favour, while others opposing homosexuality. Activists were hoping that India will vote in favour of the resolution this time, especially after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s tweet condemning the killing in Orlando, although his tweet too had erased mention of LGBT completely.