Consideration of a United Nations Human Rights Commission resolution dealing with sexual orientation has been deferred until next year after delaying tactics were used by some Muslim and African nations.

The resolution, introduced by Brazil, affirms that human rights should not be hindered in any way on the grounds of sexual orientation. A planned vote on the resolution last Friday was deferred after Pakistan, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Zimbabwe commenced a procedural debate.

London-based activist Peter Tatchell reported that the ambassador of Pakistan had previously circulated a memo stating that the resolution was politically incorrect and a direct insult to all 1.2 billion Muslims in the world.

A member of the Brazilian delegation insisted the deferral was a great victory, because thanks to the Brazilian government, the issue of discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation is on the table and has to be discussed.

Australian National University law lecturer Wayne Morgan said the Brazilian resolution marked the first time that issues of sexual orientation had been seriously on the agenda within the United Nations Human Rights Commission [UNHCR].

The fact that it has been postponed rather than defeated is quite a positive sign, he said.
Gay activist Rodney Croome said the debate on the resolution was delayed, but not derailed.

It’s the style of the UN and international diplomacy in general to take the concerns of every country seriously, even if those countries are in the minority -“ and it’s clear that a majority of countries support this resolution despite the lobbying from the Vatican and Islamic countries, Croome said.

Morgan said the fight to get sexual orientation enshrined in a UNHCR resolution was a long-term thing.

If you think of things like the Convention Eliminating All Forms Of Discrimination Against Women -“ that really took 50 years of lobbying to get that convention up, from when it was first talked about to when we finally had it. In a sense, gay and lesbian issues have only been on the agenda for the past 20 to 25 years, he said.

Croome said the proposing of the resolution by Brazil -“ and its seconding by Poland -“ was a very deliberate strategy to defuse opposition.

Having the world’s largest Catholic country -“ and a South American country -“ put forward the resolution [means] it couldn’t be dismissed as another Dutch or Canadian initiative, he said. Clearly there is a lot of good strategic thinking into putting this thing forward.

Lesbian and gay activists have made a variety of responses to the deferral of the resolution.

Australian Democrats senator Brian Greig said he was optimistic that when the Commission resumes in several months the resolution will pass.

Only two years ago, the UNHCR voted not to accept any reports that mentioned sexual orientation, and the fact that the issue is now being debated is a major step forward, Greig said.

But openly gay Western Australian MP Jim Hyde described the deferral as a blow to a fairer and more respectful society.

We live in a society where gay and lesbian people are accepted in a majority of nations within the United Nations, yet we still see the vocal minority derailing the recognition of human rights for gay and lesbian people, he said.

Although Australia signalled its intention to support the resolution at the UNHCR, concern has been expressed at the lateness with which that commitment was made -“ a situation described as a shameful stance by Peter Tatchell.

Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby co-convenor Rob McGrory welcomed the Howard government’s support of the resolution.

It’s consistent with their support of human rights in the international arena in the past. We would have preferred a more immediate response, but the important thing is they did support it and we expect them to support it again next time, he said.

Wayne Morgan said it was very disappointing that the Australian government announced its support for the resolution after substantial lobbying by people in Australia.

It reflects the fact that LGBT issues are not high on the government’s agenda, and that they would rather not support them if they could get away with it, he said.

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