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General Assembly rejects attempt to halt work of UN’s sexual orientation and gender identity expert

In the United Nations General Assembly, a group of States affirmed the principles of universal human rights by blocking the attempt to prevent the work established by the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) of the Independent Expert on Discrimination and Violence based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.

In the United Nations General Assembly, a group of States affirmed the principles of universal human rights by blocking the attempt to prevent the work established by the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) of the Independent Expert on Discrimination and Violence based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.

A group of States attempted to stop UN’s first ever independent expert tasked to oversee the “protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.” This independent expert’s role was created through UNHRC resolution A/HRC/RES/32/2 in June 2016, and is held by Thai Vitit Muntarbhorn.

Reaffirming the November 21st victory in the 3rd Committee of the UN General Assembly, member States voted 84 against to the hostile amendment, 77 voted in favor with 16 abstentions. The Philippines abstained.

With this, Muntarbhorn will continue his work to document LGBT human rights violations globally.
The vote was defeated 84 to 77 with 16 abstentions.

According to International Service for Human Right’s women’s rights and LGBT rights program manager, Pooja Patel, the outcome was a victory for equality and an important reminder that human rights are universal. “The discrimination and violence faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people around the world is real and needs to be combatted. The UN’s independent expert is a great asset for such efforts and it’s very good news that Mr. Muntarbhorn will be continuing his work,” said Patel. “It’s good to see decisions of the Human Rights Council being respected by other UN bodies. A negative outcome… would have risked eroding the Council’s authority as the world’s peak human rights body.”

Patel added: “Who you love shouldn’t be a crime, yet homosexuality is still illegal in over 70 countries. (This) vote is a modest victory, but it’s an important one that will help efforts to address such injustices.”

Earlier, 870 organizations from 157 countries around the world signed an open letter urging the governments represented in the General Assembly to continue the expert’s work.

While also expressing his happiness with the outcome, Michael David dela Cruz Tan, publishing editor of Outrage Magazine, the only LGBT publication in the Philippines, said that “we should continue to be grounded. While this could help ensure that LGBT issues remain on the agenda of the world’s eminent human rights body, LGBT activists and service providers should also ensure that whatever developments made from there are felt by those on the ground. It now depends on us to make sure that the relevance of this development is particularly felt by the LGBT people at the grassroots, who are most affected by LGBT-related issues.”

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