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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, November 25, 2016 - Volume 44 Issue 48
UN votes to keep LGBT rights watchdog
Section One
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UN votes to keep LGBT rights watchdog

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

A United Nations committee has voted to keep the international LGBT rights investigator it appointed in September in spite of objections by Russia and a number of African countries.

In June, the UN Human Rights Council created the post of special investigator to look into abuses and discrimination against LGBTI people, and in September Vitit Muntarbhorn of Thailand was appointed to the position. He was given a three-year mandate to investigate charges of anti-LGBTI bias.

However, several African countries put forward a draft resolution in the UN General Assembly's 'Third Committee,' which deals with human rights, questioning the legality of Muntarbhorn's mandate. They also called for immediate suspension of the investigator's work.

Then Western countries introduced an amendment that gutted the African group's resolution. The amendment was adopted in the Third Committee on Monday with 84 votes in favor, 77 against, and 17 abstentions.

The amended resolution, which makes no change to the work of the LGBTI rights investigator, was then adopted by the committee with 94 votes in favor, 3 against, and 80 abstentions.

Russia and Egypt, speaking on behalf of the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation, said they would not recognize the investigator and would not cooperate with him.

LGBTI rights have proven to be controversial at the UN.

In 2014, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the UN would recognize all same-sex marriages of its staff members, allowing their spouses to receive UN benefits. Russia unsuccessfully tried to overturn it last year, with Saudi Arabia, China, Iran, India, Egypt, Pakistan, and Syria among 43 states that supported Moscow.

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation, a group of 51 Muslim states blocked 11 LGBT organizations from officially attending a high-level UN meeting in June on ending AIDS, sparking a protest by the United States, Canada, and the European Union.

In February the 54-member African Group, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and the 25-member Group of Friends of the Family, led by Egypt, Belarus, and Qatar, protested the launch of six UN stamps promoting LGBT equality.

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