Sep 19, 2009

A look at the UN declaration on sexual orientation and gender identity

For another dose of current affairs and issues, I turn you now to the world map above. The countries in green are those that have backed a 2008 declaration on sexual orientation and gender identity that was proposed to the General Assembly of the United Nations. The countries in red, on the other hand, are those that oppose the said declaration and have backed a contrary statement (along the lines of religious freedom). (See this NYT article for more info.) The proposed declaration, according to Wikipedia:

includes a condemnation of violence, harassment, discrimination, exclusion, stigmatization, and prejudice based on sexual orientation and gender identity. It also includes condemnation of killings and executions, torture, arbitrary arrest, and deprivation of economic, social, and cultural rights on those grounds.

It’s quite obvious from the map that most of the Western world (including the whole of the European Union) have backed the statement while almost all Islamic countries don’t. Among the opponents (but not a signatory to either statement) is the Vatican’s Holy See, which is a UN observer. One surprise, given the Islam-sponsored backing of the opposing statement, is Albania, a European Muslim-majority country, which backs the first declaration. The United States, under George W. Bush, originally refused to sign the declaration but under Obama became a signatory.

Closer to home, we see that the Philippines is quite neutral on the declaration (or apathetic). Quite curiouser is the fact that East Timor signed the declaration despite being a predominantly-Catholic country. (Yes, the Philippines is no longer the only predominantly Catholic nation in Asia when East Timor gained its independence from Indonesia in 2002.)

This declaration is easily the most important worldwide issue directly affecting the PLU community and breaks a longstanding taboo regarding discussing homosexuality at the United Nations. The main aim is to extend the values enshrined in the UN Declaration of Human Rights to include sexual orientation and gender identity, and one of its first goals is to seek the decriminalization of homosexuality worldwide. French state secretary for human rights Rama Yade said at the UN, “How can we tolerate the fact that people are stoned, hanged, decapitated and tortured only because of their sexual orientation?” But this declaration will be a hard sell especially in countries having a state religion that forbids homosexuality.

While many people deplore the fact that gays can’t legally marry their partners almost everywhere, let’s not forget the fact that there are areas in this world where people are executed just for being gay. So this UN declaration deserves our support.


sean wrote on October 12, 2009 at 7:42 AM:

Good article.