Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Statement on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity meets firm resistance at Human Rights Council in Geneva

The debate on the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action at the Human rights Council in Geneva on Tuesday was used by a loose coalition of member States to launch a statement on  "ending acts of violence and related human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity"

Columbia presenting the document  on behalf of the group indicated that it had the support of 82 States. The Columbian statement recalled previous statements made in the Human Rights Council in 2006 and in the General Assembly in 2008. Three counter statements were made opposing the Columbian statement, one by the Organisation of Islamic Conference the OIC group delivered by Pakistan, one by the African Group delivered by Nigeria and one by the Russian Federation.

In making the OIC statement Akim Vetikhar Ahmed of Pakistan reaffirmed the counter statement delivered at the 71st meeting of the 63 session of the General Assembly in New York in 2008 referring to the so called notion of sexual orientation and the misrepresentation of the concept of gender. He also asserted that the Vienna Declaration does not include such notions

 Grigory Luki Yantsev on behalf of the Russian Federation rejected all forms of discrimination against any group  and while agreeing that this is a sensitive issue said that the Federation do not agree with those countries that have turned the protection of persons on the basis of sexual orientation into a tool for promoting corresponding lifestyles and behaviour

Mr Ositadinma Anaedu of Nigeria on behalf of the African Group told the meeting there was no consensus on the issue of sexual orientation and traced the history of attempts to include it back to the Durban meeting in 2001 where it was rejected and it has been continuously rejected in both the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly whenever the issue was raised. He told the meeting that this is an undefined concept and the African heads of Government had reached an agreement at their 2010 meeting not to accept undefined terms. He told the meeting that his group resent the attempt at the imposition of values on them that they do not share.

The US delegation strongly advocated for LGBT rights and said they were proud to join the countries supporting the sexual orientation and gender identity declaration, comparing the initiative to the struggle for democracy in other parts of the world, for example, in the Middle East. The US delegate stated that the declaration "creates no new rights".

Archbishop Silvano Tomasi made a statement opposing the initiative saying that the Church, and other people of conscience, understand that sexuality is a gift that should only be understood and expressed within its genuine context, between one man and one women in a committed marriage. Archbishop Tomasi also clarified misunderstandings and misuse of terminology that permeate this debate at the UN.

The Holy See he said “wishes to affirm its deeply held belief that human sexuality is a gift that is genuinely expressed in the complete and lifelong mutual devotion of a man and a woman in marriage. Human sexuality, like any voluntary activity, possesses a moral dimension : it is an activity which puts the individual will at the service of a finality; it is not an “identity”. In other words, it comes from the action and not from the being, even though some tendencies or “sexual orientations” may have deep roots in the personality. Denying the moral dimension of sexuality leads to denying the freedom of the person in this matter, and undermines ultimately his/her ontological dignity.  This belief about human nature is also shared by many other faith communities, and by other persons of conscience”

Archbishop Tomasi also told the meeting that the Holy See wished “to call attention to a disturbing trend in some of these social debates: People are being attacked for taking positions that do not support sexual behaviour between people of the same sex. When they express their moral beliefs or beliefs about human nature, which may also be expressions of religious convictions, or state opinions about scientific claims, they are stigmatised, and worse -- they are vilified, and prosecuted. These attacks contradict the fundamental principles announced in three of the Council’s resolutions of this session.  The truth is, these attacks are violations of fundamental human rights, and cannot be justified under any circumstances”.