The resolution, sponsored by Chile, Uruguay, Colombia and Brazil, is a follow-up to the landmark 2011 resolution on Violence and Discrimination on the basis of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, which South Africa championed at the UNHRC three years ago.
That resolution led to a groundbreaking report by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on “discriminatory laws and practices and acts of violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.”
The new resolution simply calls for the Commissioner to update the report and to do so every two years. It is expected to be voted on later this week at the UNHRC.
There have, however, been troubling indications from Geneva that South Africa has not only declined to be part of the group sponsoring the new resolution but may also fail to vote in its favour or support weakening its impact.
“It is deeply concerning that the South African government appears to have stalled on its international obligations with regard to LGBTI human rights since 2011,” comments OUT Director Dawie Nel.
“The government has not only failed to host its promised regional summit on LGBTI human rights but now could be considering backtracking on its own good work. Not supporting the resolution will be a devastating blow to efforts to improve the plight of LGBTI people around the world, and in Africa in particular,” explains Nel.
He adds: “South Africa’s failure to act would bolster African states that continue to criminalise homosexuality and those that plan to increase and worsen penalties against LGBTI people simply for who they love or because of their gender identity.”
OUT has joined other human rights groups in signing a letter addressed to Minister of International Relations and Co-operation Maite Nkoana-Mashabane insisting that South Africa vote in favour of the current version of the resolution.
The letter also expresses concern that South Africa may support plans for a possible amendment that would cynically strip the resolution of all language on sexual orientation and gender identity.
The groups have called on Minister Nkoana-Mashabane to issue the appropriate directive for a vote in support of the resolution on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression and to vote against any amendments to it. They also urged her to dissuade her colleagues from proposing an amendment that would remove references to sexual orientation and gender identity from the resolution.