The world's top U.N. human rights watchdog committee faced the anger of Muslim members Friday as it tackled the rights of gay men and lesbians for the first time. Brazil is proposing that the 53-nation Human Rights Commission pass 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 proposal is backed by European countries. However, five Muslim countries--Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Egypt, Libya, and Malaysia--have proposed amendments that remove the words "sexual orientation" throughout the document and instead simply stress that everyone is entitled to respect of their human rights. "There are some proposals which create fundamental difficulties for a large group of delegations," Pakistani ambassador Shaukat Umer told the meeting.
The commission tackles a wide range of rights violations, ranging from torture and mass killings to violations of the right to education, food, and housing for all. However, this is the first time that a nation has made a proposal specifically regarding sexual orientation.
Amnesty International said millions of people across the globe face imprisonment, torture, violence, and discrimination because of their sexual orientation. It pointed in particular to Egypt's sentencing of 21 men to three years in prison last month on charges of "practicing debauchery." "Adoption of the resolution is the only way to end the intolerable exclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people from the full protection of the U.N. system," Amnesty said in a statement. "Greater attention by the United Nations to this issue could make a real difference to real lives."
Friday is the last day of the commission's six-week meeting, and Brazil is concerned that some members are using procedural tactics to prevent a vote being taken. The resolution is supported by Germany, which said the meeting should not end until all resolutions had been voted on.