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Religious Tolerance logo

Laws concerning homosexuals & bisexuals

Early attempts to propose a
UN declaration on LGBT rights

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"LGBT" is a common acronym for Lesbian, Gay,
Bisexual and transgender/transsexual persons.

2002-APR: Brazil proposed resolution on sexual orientation:

According to the UN Non-Governmental Liaison Service:

"The UN Human Rights Commission tried to tackle lesbian and gay rights in [2002] April when Brazil proposed a resolution expressing 'deep concern at the occurrence of violations of human rights in the world against persons on the grounds of their sexual orientation'."

The resolution was derailed when five Muslim States on the commission said they would oppose any resolution containing the words 'sexual orientation.' Islamic nations, with support from the Vatican and ultra-conservative elements in the United States have consistently opposed the human rights of lesbian and gay people." 1

Religious and social conservatives generally define homosexuality in terms of behavior; they often consider it chosen, disordered, abnormal, unnatural and changeable. Human sexuality researchers, gays, lesbians, bisexuals, religious liberals and others generally differ from this assessment. They define homosexuality in terms of sexual orientation which is an innate, unchosen, fixed part of what a gay or lesbian person is. They regard it as a normal and natural orientation for a minority of adults.

Opposition to the use of the term "sexual orientation" is to be expected from many predominately Muslim countries. They oppose any transition by which homosexuality is no longer viewed as a chosen criminal behavior and becomes seen as a normal and natural orientation.

Use of the term "sexual orientation" is the first step towards grouping homophobia together with other forms of hate and discrimination, including sexism, racism, religism, xenophobia. etc.

2003-AUG-05: Uniglobe hosts panel discussion:

The United Nations Gay, Lesbian or Bisexual Employees Organization (UNGLOBE) hosted an unprecedented panel discussion at the New York City headquarters of the United Nations. They noted that the UN does not live up to the requirements of its own Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in its treatment of its employees. A UNIGLOBE spokesperson asked:

"Why does the UN fail to recognize the committed, non-marital relationships of these employees? Why does the UN deny visas, pension, health and other benefits to the loved ones of its gay, lesbian and bisexual employees? Why does the UN not take firm action to end the many cases of overt discrimination against its gay, lesbian and bisexual employees? And why is the UN?s record on these issues so far behind that of the World Bank and many other international organizations?" 1

Mark Malloch Brown, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), emphasized that:

"... discrimination based on sexual orientation not only violates basic human rights, but also hinders development by immobilizing human capital, stifling expression and limiting freedom of choice." 1

Dr. Peter Piot, Executive Director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), commented:

"Homophobia has played a crucial role in contributing to the spread of the HIV infection among gay men by undermining and discouraging HIV/AIDS prevention efforts aimed at empowering vulnerable groups. Homophobia continues to have a devastating impact on individuals, communities and societies today."

Piot stressed that persecution of sexual minorities, including imprisonment and torture, is common. 1,2

2004-MAR: Proposed Brazilian declaration withdrawn:

Brazil had prepared a declaration for submission to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights but decided on 2004-MAR-29 to withdraw it. The decision was made largely because of combined opposition from the Roman Catholic church and the Islamic Conference of States.

Kursad Kahramanoglu, Co-Secretary General of the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA) said:

"We have been here before with the UN. This unprincipled alliance of the Vatican and Islamic Conference of States (ICS) in the UN has already twisted the arms of many countries to almost a breaking point in the past. The lukewarm support from some of the traditional supporters of LGBT rights has also contributed to the feeling of isolation of the Brazilian Government. There are however, plenty of countries, which support the human rights of LGBT people. ILGA will ask some other countries which support this resolution to sponsor it. Our team in Geneva with other advocates of human rights will continue to talk to all those involved. We thank Brazil for their hard struggle until now, in the name of all those millions of LGBT people all over the world. People who expect this to be the end of the matter are sadly mistaken. Resolve this in the way the Vatican and ICS demand it, implies we would deny our own existence. We simply cannot do that. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and transgender Rights are Human Rights, and it is just a matter of time before the whole world recognizes this." 3

Rosanna Flamer-Caldera, Co-secretary General of ILGA added:
"Some might say that Brazil backed down under pressure. Our rights cannot be denied forever. We will fight and we will eventually gain the human rights which have been denied us for this long." 3

2006-DEC-01: UN Human Rights Council discussed homophobia:

The third session of the UN Human Rights Council met from NOV-29 to DEC-08. Under the topic of " 'other issues' related to the protection and promotion of human rights," the Council discussed

"... human rights violations linked to sexual orientation and gender identity... Speakers expressed deep concern at ongoing human rights violations around the world based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The principles of universality and non-discrimination required that these be addressed. All Special Procedures and treaty bodies should continue to integrate consideration of human rights violations based on sexual orientation within their relevant mandates. Tackling stigma and discrimination was about political and moral leadership: from politicians, religious figures, communities, the media, campaigning organizations, and from individuals, including how each behaved." 4

In other words, they expressed concern, but took no concrete action.

References used:

The following information source was used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlink is not necessarily still active today.

  1. "UNIBLOBE urges UN to recognize gay rights," UN Non-Governmental Liaison Service, 2003-AUG, at:
  2. UNIGLOBE's website is at:
  3. "2004 - Brazilian Resolution," ILGA, 2004-MAR-30, at:
  4. "Council takes up various issues...", United Nations Office at Geneva, 2006-DEC-01, at:

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Copyright © 2009 to 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original posting: 2009-FEB-13
Latest update: 2011-JUN-18
Author: B.A. Robinson

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