Last edited: February 14, 2005

Homosexual Rights Resolution Withdrawn at United Nations

The Washington Times, March 30, 2004

By Betsy Pisik

NEW YORK—The Brazilian government, bowing to economic and political pressure from the Islamic world, yesterday withdrew its effort to protect the civil rights of homosexuals.

Brazil had introduced a resolution before the Geneva-based U.N. Human Rights Commission to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation.

But the measure was vehemently opposed by the Vatican and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), both of which lobbied the 53 members of the Human Rights Commission to oppose the resolution.

“Since November last year, we have been consulting with delegations of several countries on the text,” Brazil’s U.N. mission in Geneva said in a statement. “We have not yet been able, however, to arrive at a necessary consensus.”

U.N. officials say Brazil may choose to reintroduce the language at next year’s six-week session.

“What Brazil is proposing is that be postponed until next year,” said Jose Dias, a spokesman for the Human Rights Commission. “Technically, they are withdrawing it.”

The same thing happened last year, when Brazil was forced to postpone consideration of similar language.

Diplomats in Geneva and New York said there was no way the resolution, which calls on governments to protect citizens’ human rights “regardless of their sexual orientation,” would pass in the commission.

“There is widespread opposition to it from the Islamic countries,” said one diplomat who is familiar with the proceedings. “The Vatican was also opposed.”

The resolution had picked up 18 co-sponsors on the committee, predominantly European nations.

Scott Long, the director of homosexual, bisexual and transgender issues for the New York-based Human Rights Watch, said yesterday that Brazil had come under “extreme pressure” from several Islamic nations, particularly Egypt and Pakistan.

“We know the OIC threatened on trade relations,” Mr. Long said. “It’s interesting that the OIC is pulling out all the stops on this. It’s a concerted effort.”

The countries most opposed to enshrining the rights of sexual minorities have the most “egregious” records, he added. Mr. Long singled out Egypt, saying it has entrapped and tortured suspected homosexuals and has imprisoned hundreds.

“It makes sense that Egypt would not want the U.N. to have a mandate to shine a light based on sexual orientation,” he said by telephone from Geneva.

Diplomats from Egypt, the OIC and the Vatican did not return calls yesterday.

Washington has remained determinedly silent on the subject of same-sex unions in U.N. discussions in Geneva and New York. However, the Bush administration is trying to win support for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would restrict marriage to heterosexual couples.

U.S. officials in Geneva could not be reached for comment, and diplomats in New York could not expand on public statements.

Roughly one-third of all countries outlaw homosexual activity.

More than a dozen nations have varying levels of recognition of same-sex partnerships. Ecuador was the first nation to offer explicit human rights protections to homosexuals in its constitution.

Meanwhile, in New York, the issue of same-sex unions has nearly paralyzed the U.N. General Assembly’s administration and management committee since Secretary-General Kofi Annan authorized the extension of family benefits to staff members whose same-sex relationships are formally recognized by their governments.

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