The United Nations' Human Rights Council has approved for the first time a resolution condemning discrimination and violence against LGBT people.
In the resolution, passed Friday in Geneva, the council "[expresses] grave concern at acts of violence and discrimination, in all regions of the world, committed against individuals because of their sexual orientation and gender identity."
By a 23-19 vote with three abstentions, the resolution calls for the U.N.'s High Commissioner to initiate a worldwide study on "discriminatory laws and practices and acts of violence" -- research that would be reviewed by the Human Rights Council in a session next year. The measure was introduced by South Africa, one of 12 African nations on the council.
"The fact that South Africa broke with the rest of the Africa bloc at the UN to lead this resolution helps tremendously in dispelling the notion that LGBT rights are imposed Western constructs," Council for Global Equality chair Mark Bromley told The Advocate via email. "This should help the debate significantly in Africa and elsewhere, where the laws and the violence have been pronounced."
South Africa and Mauritius were the only nations of the African Group on the council to vote in favor of the resolution, however, with Nigeria the most vocal opponent (note: a previous version of this post reported that South Africa had been the sole nation in the group to vote in favor). But Zambia, where LGBT people can be imprisoned for up to 10 years for "unnatural" sexual acts, and Burkina Faso were among the abstentions -- "a positive sign that the Africa bloc is not as unified in opposition as they have been in the past," Bromley said.
Bromley's organization stressed in a Friday statement the need for "ongoing U.S. leadership at the U.N. to address the human rights of LGBT people in any meaningful way."
"We hope the U.S. government will work in partnership with South Africa and the other co-sponsors as this dialogue unfolds so that these words can be transformed into actual human rights protections on the ground," Bromley said in the statement.