The Security Council on Monday passed, for the first time, a measure condemning violence against LGBT communities. The measure was unanimously approved in the wake of the Orlando Massacre and was a precedent breaking affirming for many countries that “targeting persons as a result of their sexual orientation” is something to be explicitely condemned.
For several countries, this was a watershed moment.
The measure from the Security Council came in the form of what is known as a “press statement.” Unlike a resolution, it does not carry the force of international law. But what makes press statements unique is that also unlike a resolution, these statements can only be issued at the unanimous consent of all members of the Security Council.
The Security Council includes five permanent members (China, France, Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, and the United States) and 10 non-permanent members who are serving two year terms: Angola, Egypt, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Senegal, Spain, Ukraine, Uruguay, Venezuela.
Some of these countries have previously opposed LGBT rights at the UN, going so far just six years ago to oppose a resolution in the General Assembly that singled out LGBT community as deserving protection from, among other things, summary execution.
Past is not precedent
In December 2010, each of these 15 countries were faced with a similar decision. Back then the USA introduced a resolution at the General Assembly (which includes every UN member state) to include “sexual orientation” to a list of groups that should receive special protection from extrajudicial killing, arbitrary detention, and summary execution.
The prior month, a coalition of culturally conservative countries successfully pushed through an amendment to a resolution condemning extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions that removed a specific reference to “sexual orientation” among other named groups (like religious and ethnic minorities, indigenous peoples, etc). The American resolution was intended to reverse this decision.
The American-supported resolution passed 93-55, with 27 abstentions and 12 absences. But among those 55 countries that voted to exclude a special reference to sexual orientation included five current members of the Security Council: China, Russia, Egypt, Senegal, and Malaysia.
In other words, just six years ago one third of the current membership of the Security Council refused to even want to mention sexual orientation as a characteristic violence. But now, in the wake of a horrific attack on a gay nightclub in the United States it seems they have evolved.