Some very good news to report from the United Nations yesterday. The General Assembly overwhelmingly approved a measure, introduced by the United States, to restore “sexual orientation” to a list of groups that should receive special protection from extrajudicial killing.
Last month, a coalition of conservative states (mostly from Africa and the Middle East) 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 minorities, indigenous peoples, etc). That amendment made it through the General Assembly’s Third Committee by a vote of 79 in favor, 70 opposed, with 17 abstaining and 26 not voting.
The United States vowed to introduce an amendment to re-instate the reference to sexual orientation and civil society groups from around the world kicked into gear. The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission helped mobilize a large coalition of human rights groups to pressure countries into restoring the reference to “sexual orientation.”
The combination of top-down pressure from the United States and bottom-up pressure from civil society proved successful. Yesterday, the amendment passed by a wide margin. Here is the vote breakdown, courtesy of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission:
In favor of amendment restoring sexual orientation to UNGA resolution on executions (93):
Albania, Andorra, Angola, Antigua-Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Barbados, Belgium, Belize, Bolivia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Cape Verde, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Mauritius, Marshall Island, Mexico, Micronesia, Monaco, Montenegro, Nauru, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Palau, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Samoa, San Marino, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Timor-Leste, Tonga, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Vanuatu, Venezuela
Opposed to amendment (55):
Afghanistan, Algeria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Benin, Botswana, Brunei Dar-Sala, Burkina Faso, Burundi, China, Comoros, Congo, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Gambia, Ghana, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Malawi, Malaysia, Mauritania, Morocco, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Russia, Saint Lucia, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Swaziland, Tajikistan, Tunisia, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, Tanzania, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe
Belarus, Bhutan, Cambodia, Eritrea, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Kenya, Lao, Lesotho, Liberia, Maldives, Mali, Mongolia, Mozambique, Philippines, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Sao Tome Principe, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Thailand, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Vietnam
Did not vote/Absent (17):
Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Cote D’Ivoire, Cuba, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Kiribati, Kyrgyzstan, Madagascar, Myanmar, Seychelles, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Uzbekistan
The resolution is non-binding. But it is an important symbolic victory for human rights at the United Nations. The struggle is not over. Next step: gain recognition for the particular vulnerabilities of transgender people.