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UN General Assembly Votes To Allow Gays To Be Executed Without Cause

by Tanya Domi on November 20, 2010

in Analysis,culture,Discrimination,International,Politics

Post image for UN General Assembly Votes To Allow Gays To Be Executed Without Cause

Gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people were once again subject to the whims of homophobia and religious and cultural extremism this week, thanks to a United Nations vote that removed “sexual orientation” from a resolution that protects people from arbitrary executions. In other words, the UN General Assembly this week voted to allow LGBT people to be executed without cause.

According to the International Gay and Lesbians Human Rights Commission, the UN General Assembly’s Third Committee on Social, Cultural and Humanitarian issues removed “sexual orientation” from a resolution addressing extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions this past week in a vote that was overwhelming represented by a majority of African, Middle East and Carribean nations.  For a UN committee that addresses human rights questions that affect people all over the world, by removing protections for LGBT persons from a category of arbitrary executions,  belies the objective and purpose of a committee whose  focus this year is “on the examination of human rights questions,” according to its website.

A number of LGBT human rights advocates were surprised by the decidedly lop-sided vote, including Mark Bromley, the chair of the Council on Global Equality, a Washington, D.C. based organization that brings together human rights organizations, LGBT groups, philanthropists and corporate leaders to “encourage a clearer and stronger American voice on human rights concerns impacting LGBT communities around the world.”

“I was very surprised by the vote,” said Bromley, who had been in contact with the United States Mission to the United Nations delegation all day Tuesday, who were trying to beat back efforts to strip sexual orientation from the resolution.  But because the U.S. supports capital punishment, they usually abstain from voting on this resolution, thus they are in a weakened position with one arm tied behind their backs, according to Bromley. “But that said, the State Department did everything possible to beat back the efforts to repeal protections for LGBT persons,” he added.

For further analysis into this story, read Tanya Domi’s latest piece at The New Civil Rights Movement, “UN Vote Allowing Gays To Be Executed Result Of Political, Religious Fundamentalism.”

The U.K. gay rights and human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said,

“This is a shameful day in United Nations history. It gives a de facto green light to the on-going murder of LGBT people by homophobic regimes, death squads and vigilantes. They will take comfort from the fact that the UN does not endorse the protection of LGBT people against hate-motivated murder.

“The UN vote is in direct defiance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantees equal treatment, non-discrimination and the right to life. What is the point of the UN if it refuses to uphold its own humanitarian values and declarations?

“This vote is partly the result of a disturbing homophobic alliance between mostly African and Arab states, often inspired by religious fundamentalism. LGBT people in these countries frequently suffer severe persecution.”

In an issued statement explaining the U.S. vote, a representative of the U.S. UN delegation said,

At the outset, let me say that the United States strongly agrees with and appreciates the cosponsors’ efforts to retain language specifically condemning ESAs [extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions] targeting vulnerable groups, particularly members of the LGBT community, and we were dismayed that this reference could not survive an unfriendly amendment.

Bromley expressed great disappointment in losing all the Southern African countries on the vote, including Angola, Botswana, Mozambique, Nambia and South Africa, the latter, whose domestic laws and record on LGBT civil rights have held great regard throughout the world.  Nonetheless, according to Bromley, from the days of  former President Thabo Mbeki through present day leader Jacob Zuma, South Africa has been recalcitrant in its opposition to extending human rights to LGBT persons within international legal structures.

Another region that unanimously supported the removal of sexual orientation from the resolution were the Carribean nations.  Most noteworthy was the support from the Bahamas, Cuba, Haiti and Jamaica.  Bromley indicated that the U.S.  and human rights groups in the hemisphere have opportunities to forcefully advance LGBT rights through the Organization of American States (OAS) and Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.  Brazil and Uruguay are international leaders on LGBT rights and can play a constructive role in bringing Carribean nations into the OAS fold on these issues, according to Bromley.

Middle East countries that principally observe the Muslim religion and its practices, as well as countries whose politics are dominated by Christian fundamentalists, generally oppose LGBT and women’s rights at the UN.  Even the United States has yet to ratify the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).  Indeed, CEDAW has the most “reservations” filed by the most member states of any international human rights convention on record.  A reservation is a statement made by a State which it purports to exclude or alter the legal effect of certain provisions of a treaty in their application.  According to the Office of the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights,

A reservation may enable a State to participate in a multilateral treaty in which it would otherwise be unable or unwilling to do so.  States can make reservations to a treaty when they sign, ratify, accept, approve or accede to it.   When a State makes a reservation upon signing, it must confirm the reservation upon ratification, acceptance or approval…a reservation cannot be contrary to the object and purpose of the treaty.

As an LGBT activist or an observer of UN and international politics, it is important for interested persons to understand that religion and culture play a major role in persuading internal bodies to not extend certain human rights to LGBT persons and women on religious and cultural grounds.  These dynamics have created an  international debate between advocates of “cultural relativism“–those who assert primacy of cultural values over human rights and those who are “universalists,” who believe rights trump cultural concerns.

The United States Mission to the United Nations has an explanation of the U.S.’s vote.

Editor’s note: Thanks to Andrés Duque for bringing this to our attention.

Tanya L. Domi is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University, who teaches about human rights in Eurasia and is a Harriman Institute affiliated faculty member. Prior to teaching at Columbia, Domi worked internationally for more than a decade on issues related to democratic transitional development, including political and media development, human rights, gender issues, sex trafficking, and media freedom.

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sk8eycat November 22, 2010 at 11:52 pm

The U.K. gay rights and human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said,

“This is a shameful day in United Nations history. It gives a de facto green light to the on-going murder of LGBT people by homophobic regimes, death squads and vigilantes. They will take comfort from the fact that the UN does not endorse the protection of LGBT people against hate-motivated murder.
Sorry, Mr. Tatchell, it's not exactly "hate-motivated murder." It's RELIGION-inspired murder. All the Abrahamic religions advocate outright killing of homosexuals of any gender. Period. Read your buybull, both testaments. It's there. So is the oppression, abuse, and murder of women.

It's shameful that in the 21st Century people still insist on living according to Bronze Age myths, and trying to pass laws to force everyone else to live by them, whether or not they believe those preposterous tales.

kiby_12 November 23, 2010 at 1:27 am

While I can understand your post sk8eycat I believe that it is only examining one aspect of the issue.
By focusing on religion your failing to see the center of the problem, which in my opinion is the wider trend of homophobia.

While it is true that many countries with religious ties voted against this proposition but putting this amendment solely on the shoulders of religion is not fair.
The article gave two examples of countries that are international leaders on LGBT rights; Brazil and Uruguay.

The population of Brazil is 76% Roman Catholic, 15.4% Protestant, and the other 9% is very spread out. This would make Brazil a very religious state, however they stand up for LGBT rights.

Uruguay though it has less of a religious demographic still has 58% of it’s popultation adhering to a religious affiliation (47.1% Roman Catholic, and 11.1% non-Catholic Christians).

Both Brazil and Uruguay have a large religious population yet they are still leaders in LGBT rights. This would suggest that it’s not religion that is to blame for the amendment of this proposition but homophobia as a wider trend is the core issue.

All stats were taken from World Fact Book.

sk8eycat November 23, 2010 at 12:26 pm

The virulent form of homophobia has most of its roots in the Middle Eastern Abrahamic religions. As far as I know, only "YHWH's" ghost-writers gave explicit orders to kill.

The only exception that I know of was pre-Empire Rome, which didn't have "Kill Them All" laws, but homosexuality was socially and politically ruinous…IF it became widely known. Many wealthy Roman businessmen had marriages of convenience, and just traveled to Athens as often as they could manage. It wasn't exactly a secret.

Today's fundamentalist xians and muslims still take the mouldy old anti-gay writings, and other similarly ignorant but currently less lethal, "directives." literally. There are a lot of ridiculous (check out the liquor laws in various states and countries, for one silly example) and offensive laws (insane birth control and divorce restrictions) everywhere that are solely religion-based.

Who would really care about somebody else's love life if they hadn't been taught from an early age that some "god" forbade certain types of relationships?

MichalPecena November 23, 2010 at 12:15 pm

I think that religion is used as an excuse for bigotry in this context, but that does not mean that faith is the cause of it. Spain, for instance, has legalised gay-marriage – and virtually everybody in Spain is a catholic.

sk8eycat November 23, 2010 at 1:33 pm


Bigotry is the offspring of the old-time tribal religions…"Us vs. Them" After 2000 years of indoctrination, bigotry is no longer connected to religion in people's minds, they just accept it as the way the world was set up.

Spain, along with the rest of Western Europe, is now more secular than Catholic, and Mr. Ratzinger is very upset with that situation.

Spain's population is more secular than that of the United States, and we have the first secular constitution ever written. We are headed for deep…well….never mind.

sgtcosgrove November 23, 2010 at 7:42 pm

You honestly sound more anti-Religion than pro-rights. Please take your polemical arguments elsewhere.

sk8eycat November 23, 2010 at 7:59 pm

I graduated from skeptic to atheist while working to try to get the ERA passed a long time ago. It happened BECAUSE I studied the reasons for most of the irrational oppression in this world.

sk8eycat November 23, 2010 at 8:05 pm

I forgot to add that if you find my point of view and my presence here all that offensive, fine…I'm gone.


spiritofelric December 6, 2010 at 3:51 am

According to my religion:
H.E. Mr. Michel Tommo Monthe, Ms. Margareta Ploder, Ms. M. Luz Melon, Mr. Waheed A. and Al-Shami, Mr. Asif Garayev
should be murdered for failing to perform their jobs.

Although, they didn't actually do anything to intentionally hurt anyone… Maybe murder is wrong regardless of religion or reason? Especially to those who have committed no harm to others? *sigh*… this world needs help.

elmarko123 November 24, 2010 at 7:30 am


You are 100% correct.

Only a fool would ignore the connection between strongly religous regions of the world & sexism/homophobia.

I would expect those saying it’s not based on religion are male/straight & religous.

Not exactly the most non-bias group….

ReverendUP November 24, 2010 at 12:02 pm

The fact that religion has had an impact in shaping opinion and belief and influencing actions over centuries is inescapable.

One has to look at the “origin” of one’s hatred. Where is it rooted?
Hate is often rooted in a belief. Many beliefs are unexamined.
The only requirements for belief are “acceptance” and “repetition.”

The question is, “Does my belief cause harm or does it help?”

The other thing that came to mind in reading this is that this exclusion was directed toward protecting people from “arbitrary executions.” Why not protect ALL people from ALL executions everywhere?

Peace, Blessings and UP! Yours.

skywide November 25, 2010 at 3:17 am

From my reading of the source article, what actually happened here was that the UN General Assembly voted to remove a reference to sexual orientation from a non-exhaustive list of discriminatory grounds on which extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary killings are often based, from a Resolution that condemns all such extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary killing, regardless of reason.

I’d love to know how Professor Domi took that piece of news, and arrived at the conclusion that the UN General Assembly ‘…voted to allow LGBT people to be executed without cause.’

Yes, the result of this vote is a depressing one, but can we keep to the actual facts, please? What this vote represents is the unfortunate reality that many countries’ governments still refuse to pay specific attention to LGBT rights. It does not mean the UN General Assembly condones the murder of LGBT individuals. Again: the UN General Assembly still condemns ALL extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary killings.

As an aside, the source article also says that the vote was passed with a majority of 79 to 70 (17 abstentions, 26 absentees) and I doubt the list of Yea votes will surprise anyone:

Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belize, Benin, Botswana, Brunei Dar-Sala, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, China, Comoros, Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Cuba, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jamaica, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and Grenadines, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Syrian Arab Republic, Tajikistan, Tunisia, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, United Republic of Tanzania, Uzbekistan, Viet Nam, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe

RobTaylor November 27, 2010 at 10:02 pm

Surprise! The left will allow gays to be wiped out (as Marx himself supported) while counting your votes by promising you things they will never push. Yet again your played for suckers but next week you'll all be calling people Islamophobes and sending money to communist, opps sorry i mean "progressive" groups.

So where was the outrage when Chavez was rounding up gays? Or Mugabe? or SA's ANC? or Ortega? Because, they're the ones who also voted down protecting gays and their allies here are glad handing you while themselves believing that homosexuality is a product of capitalist decadence. But hey, John McCain, Mormons and the Pope are the real bad guys. Have fun getting rounded up in ten years.

lulekisizwe December 8, 2010 at 3:39 pm

We South Africans are disgusted with our President for the way he voted, and we are staging a protest outside our Parliament tomorrow!!

lerkkweed November 30, 2010 at 1:38 pm

Another victory for bigot power. This is the dark side of the UN. I'm all for nations dialoguing on issues, but we must remember that too many member nations are third world dictatorships and barbarous pre-enlightenment societies. It is fashionable for the West today to uphold any ethnic, religious, cultural value except their own. I don't think all ideas and cultures are created equal. In a free society multiculturalism is redundant: every culture is free to be expressed, shy of genital mutilation and human sacrifices. The state has no business promoting cultures (or prohibiting them). It should be up to the people of those cultures themselves to decide what they wish to keep and what they wish to let go. The reason i bring this up is that it is the multicultural mindset that grants UN member nations a blanket legitimacy too many of them to not deserve. Cultures are survival mechanisms, and the standard of a culture must be the life and well being of individuals and society at large.

lulekisizwe December 8, 2010 at 3:35 pm

Unfortunately our President also saw fit to vote that way – we are staging a protest outside our Parliament tomorrow!! And this whilst we are fighting against corrective rape and I am busy with a petition to call on the SA Governement to declare corrective rape a hate-crime!

We, the LGBTIs of South Africa are disgusted!

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