On Monday, 21 November, the UN General Assembly voted on two key historic motions regarding LGBT rights worldwide, both carrying major ramifications on how the rights movement is seen worldwide.
The first vote was on a non-binding resolution that was aimed at making LGBT rights a universally recognised human right, an attempt that has been blocked on previous occasions. A non-binding resolution, if passed, means that the UN as an organisation is committed to the content of the vote, but individual countries can still opt out. The reason this was presented as a non-binding vote is so that opposition to the vote, which is still strong in certain parts of the world, does not prevent the UN from taking a positive stance on LGBT rights. The vote was passed by a significant, though not overwhelming, majority. Crucially, the range of countries that supported the vote means that the UN’s commitment is towards having dialogue with different countries so that LGBT rights are promoted within the context of cultural rights rather than being seen as an imposition of the European voting bloc, which it has been seen as in the past.
The second vote was brought forward by the African bloc of nations as an attempt to undermine a previous decision made by the UN Human Rights Council. The UNHRC had appointed its first ever High Commissioner for LGBT Rights earlier this year. The African bloc believed that this was an infringement on their individual national sovereignty and an imposition of foreign values, and therefore brought forward a proposal to remove the position. Thankfully, this vote was defeated in the General Assembly and the High Commissioner’s position is going to stand.
The votes have proven that the world is slowly becoming more accepting of LGBT rights, as proven by positive votes by nations such as Belize and Singapore, which had voted against the measures in the past. Nonetheless, the second motion also proves that attempts to solidify rights can still be undermined and we need to stand together in solidarity.
The university’s LGBT radio show, The Identity Talk, held a special broadcast during the second vote to discuss global rights in more detail and the show audio can be found at: https://audioboom.com/posts/5311397-the-identity-talk-lgbt-rights-worldwide-and-the-un