Kelly Sans Culotte


Vatican, Muslim States Slam Queer Human Rights
Arm-twisting, procedural shenanigans at UN in Geneva.
By Juan Pérez Cabral

Pope, inverted.

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APRIL 25, 2003. The Vatican and the Organization of the Islamic Conference, an inter-governmental group of 56 countries, each pulled out all the stops today in a bid to defeat the first resolution in the history of the United Nations that reminds the world that queers, too, have human rights.

Discussion of the resolution, entitled "Human Rights and Sexual Orientation," officially began yesterday afternoon at the UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva. Lobbying and unofficial debate have raged for days, though. The landmark text was introduced by Brazil and co-sponsored by Canada and a number of mostly European countries.

Vatican officials reportedly launched a fast and furious phone blitz on Latin American heads of state late in the afternoon, to make sure they voted no, or at least abstained. Costa Rica and Mexico, still wavering between support and abstention, were among the chief targets. Under sustained pressure from Rome, initially supportive Latin American governments have been falling like dominoes all week from the yes into the abstention list.

Meanwhile, at the Commission, Pakistan, leading the Islamic Conference charge, forced a vote on a no-action motion, which would have killed not just the resolution, but prevented a debate. The motion was narrowly defeated, 24 to 22, with 6 abstentions.

The Commision's chair, who represents Lybia (a member of the Islamic Conference), then maneuvered to postpone the vote on the resolution until today, which is the last session. The excuse: more time was needed to discuss five amendments, presented by fellow Islamic Conference members Egypt, Lybia, Malaysia, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia. The amendments, on every single paragraph of the resolution, including its title, delete all mention of sexual orientation.

Jan Doerfel, of the Geneva-based International Research Centre on Social Minorities, who attended yesterday's session, says that the amendments "are part of an action plan to prevent any substantial discussion on the issue and to delay the whole process in order to prevent the resolution from going to a vote before the end of the Commission's session, at 6 p.m. today."

Doerfel says that "the resolution is presently at great risk." He thinks there will probably be a vote today. "Counter-pressure, in the form of phone calls, faxes, etc. to the highest levels, is absolutely necessary to counteract" pressure from the Vatican and the Islamic Conference.

In Argentina, one of the countries heavily targeted by the Vatican, "almost all local (lgbt) groups are participating in a letter-writing, email, phone campaign directed both at the Foreign Affairs Ministry and the Argentinean delegation in Geneva," says Marcelo Ferreyra, an activist with the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) in Buenos Aires.

Queer Muslim groups in Canada, Britain, and the United States have also been actively working for passage of the resolution. On Wednesday, they released a hard-hitting rebuttal to an official memo sent by Pakistan to all the Commission members on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, which claimed that the "resolution directly contradicts the tenets of Islam and other religions" and its approval would be "a direct insult to the 1.2 billion Muslims around the world."

"This historic draft resolution on human rights and sexual orientation does not contradict the tenets of Islam and other religions", countered the queer Muslim groups. "Its adoption would not be considered a direct insult to the 1.2 billion Muslim around the world. Islam is not a monolithic religion and the Organization of the Islamic Conference does not represent the voices and the ideologies of a global Ummah (Muslim community). Muslims hold a diverse range of religious and political beliefs and our cultural heritage, racial background, gender, age and, yes, sexual orientation, often determine our ideology as human beings and as believers in our faith of Islam."

From the Web

Al-Fatiha Foundation
United Nations: Human Rights

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