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From the US to the UN: Fighting for global LGBT rights

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From the US to the UN: Fighting for global LGBT rights

With the anti-LGBT Trump administration appearing on the horizon, the status of the US as one of the major defenders of global LGBT rights is facing uncertainty.

Fortunately, the United Nations may hopefully fill in the void with the appointment and the recent defense of the new independent investigator of abuses against the LGBT.

UN investigator for global LGBT rights

A recent move by African states to block the UN LGBT rights protector did not prosper in the international organization after the position was created in June by the UN Human Rights Council.

The UN had appointed Vitit Muntarbhorn of Thailand with a three-year mandate to look into acts of violence and discrimination against LGBTI people worldwide.

However, a number of African states pushed a draft resolution questioning the legality of the creation of the mandate and calling for the suspension of the investigator’s work.

In response, western countries came up with an amendment that addressed the issues of the draft resolution, and this was adopted by the body.

Currently, being gay is a crime in 73 countries. Likewise, Russian and Egypt– representing the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)– have said they won’t recognize the investigator’s mandate and won’t cooperate with Muntarbhorn.

The Coordination Committee of UN Special Procedures– which is tasked with the independent fact-finding and monitoring of the UN Human Rights Council– said the African move “undermines the Council’s credibility and authority, and weakens the human rights system as a whole.”

US won’t defend global LGBT rights

The creation of the UN investiator position is timely, given the possibility that the new Trump administration will likely switch sides on the issue of global LGBT rights, wrote Samar Habib of the Washington Post.

During the Obama administration, the US had put diplomatic pressure to help advance global LGBT rights, ranging from issuing various public statements and resolutions at the UN to ensuring US diplomacy and foreign assistance promote and protect LGBT rights.

The Obama administration had also used the Global Equity Fund and USAID to fund a number of LGBT human rights programs, as well as appointed the first-ever Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons.

Though Donald Trump earlier said he will protect LGBT Americans “from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology” in the wake of the Orlando shooting, he also selected the decidedly anti-LGBT Mike Pence as his vice-president candidate.

Habib noted that Pence’s reasoning against LGBT rights is similar to those used by Russia and OIC against LGBT rights, i.e. opposing LGBT people as a legitimate group and having the US advocate for them internationally.

He made further comparisons between Pence’s ideas and those by Russia’s Vladimir Putin and the OIC, from protecting “traditional family values” to disregarding “new and distinct set of rights and protection for a specific group of individuals.”

“We can expect Trump to let either Pence or his secretary of state define US human rights policy,” Habib wrote.

He added: “If Trump enables Pence’s attitudes toward sexuality and gender identity to prevail in US foreign policy, it will shift the already precarious balance of power in the United Nations. The internationalization of LGBT rights will slow if not halt.”

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