Good News from the UN on LGBT Human Rights
It’s time to interrupt this mental-health induced radio silence for a very exciting update. If you didn’t hear, on Friday the UNHRC finally passed a resolution on LGBT rights, with 23 of the 47 nations in the Council voting in favor. This is the first time something like this has passed, and it follows on the heels of several attempts in recent years to get a declaration on sexual orientation through the General Assembly. Though the UNHRC is a smaller body, the plan to study the problem of LGBT rights violations is promising due to the effect it could potentially have on nations in the General Assembly that have voted against the declaration, but are not strongly opposed.
Although the rights of LGBT people are clearly protected by existing international law, those rights are not protected in practice or defended before international bodies. Change occurs slowly, as evidenced by the slow march of sodomy law cases in some countries and same-sex marriage cases in others. It is often courts, not legislatures, that decide these issues. And in the UN, even the ability to lobby for queer rights has long been restricted. It was only a few years ago that ECOSOC (the Economic and Social Council) began granting LGBT organizations consultative status before the UN. Hopefully, this resolution is a sign that the pendulum is starting to swing, but action will be required both in the UN and at the grassroots level if we’re going to see concrete action for LGBT rights at the UN.