19 Jun 2011

Historic UN resolution on sexual orientation

9:45 am on 19 June 2011

The United Nations Human Rights Council has passed a historic resolution that seeks equal rights for everyone regardless of their sexual orientation.

The resolution was passed narrowly with 23 votes in favour, 19 against and three abstentions, after an emotional debate in which African states accused South Africa of breaking ranks with the region and siding with the West after it had introduced the issue.

Presenting the text, the ABC reports, South Africa said that "no one should be subject to discrimination or violence due to sexual orientation or gender identity".

It also stressed that the resolution "does not seek to impose values on states, but seeks to initiate dialogue" on the issue.

However, Arab and African states were strongly opposed, with countries of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) demanding a vote.

An OIC spokesperson said the organisation is "seriously concerned at the attempt to introduce to the UN some notion that has no legal foundations in any international human rights instruments".

But the move has been hailed as historic by other states, including Argentina and the United States, as well as by rights activists.

Before the vote, Amnesty International's representative at the UN, Peter Splinter, said the resolution was "very significant to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals".

Homosexuality is still illegal in 76 countries, according to Amnesty.