THE United Nations General Assembly has voted to retain the appointed LGBTI human rights monitor after a coalition of the African states moved to have his position suspended.

Vitit Muntarbhorn from Thailand was appointed to the position in September after the UN Human Rights  created the role in June to have an independent investigator look into abuses against LGBTI.

Earlier this month African states questioned the legality of his mandate, arguing that sexual and gender identity should not be linked to existing international human rights instruments. They introduced a 193-page draft resolution to the UN General Assembly’s Third Committee on human rights, which would have removed the position of an LGBTI investigator.

Botswana’s UN ambassador, Charles Ntwaagae, told a UN General Assembly committee that it should not be investigating “sexual orientation and gender identity”.

“We are alarmed that the Council is delving into matters which fall essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of States counter to the commitment in the United Nations Charter to respect the sovereignty of States and the principle of non-intervention,” he said.

“More importantly, it arises owing to the ominous usage of the two notions: sexual orientation and gender identity

“We wish to state that those two notions are not and should not be linked to existing international human rights instruments.”

Botswana human rights activist and director of Pan Africa ILGA commented, Monica Tabengwa, said she was disappointed in the Africa Group’s attempts to suspend the LGBTI investigator role.

“We are deeply disappointed that Botswana led this fallacious move by the Africa Group to remove gains at the Human Rights Council to include SOGI (sexual orientation and gender identity) protections within the existing human rights framework,” she said.

“Let us remind everyone that the SOGI mandate is about real people and their right to secure lives, to be free of violence and discrimination and that these lives can’t be postponed or deferred indefinitely. We deserve more from our governments”

Western countries proposed an amendment to the African states’ draft resolution, which was voted with a majority in favour, essentially ending the call to remove Muntarbhorn.

However, there is still a long way to go in convincing all member states of the UN to back the LGBTI investigator with 57-member Organisation of Islamic Cooperation declaring it would not recognise the mandate Muntarbhorn and would not work with him.

Human Rights Watch was one of 850 organisations who called on the General Assembly’s Third Committee to take a principled stand that LGBTI rights are human rights.

“The Third Committee’s vote affirms that the right to be protected from violence and discrimination applies equally to LGBT people,” said Boris Dittrich, LGBT rights advocacy director at Human Rights Watch.

“It also respects the integrity of the Human Rights Council, as the UN’s top human rights body, to ensure that mechanisms are in place to protect rights not just in theory, but in practice.”

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