Looks like South Africa’s suspect involvement in the United Nations effort to crack down on gay persecution isn’t resolved. After originally offering a resolution (to substitute the one put forward by the United States) that called for the study of “new concepts such as sexual orientation,” rather than explicitly add sexual orientation and gender identity to a list of demographics that need protection from violence, South Africa is still holding up its original proposal. And it has The Gays — and constitutional protectors — in a fury.
On March 31 47 members of the United Nations Human Rights Council will vote on whether to pass the resolution proposed by South Africa on March 17. The resolution calls for an “open-ended intergovernmental working group to elaborate [on] new concepts such as sexual orientation”, and “decides that the aforementioned working group shall be the single modality and framework of the United Nations Human Rights Council within which all the deliberations on sexual orientation … shall be undertaken”.
The proposal has riled South African and international human rights and gay rights activists. Said Zackie Achmat, co-founder of the Social Justice Coalition: “As it stands the resolution would be unconstitutional. It stops any further UN investigation or report on sexual orientation and gender identity anywhere. “If enormous hate crimes happen, as in Uganda, then the UN can’t investigate. It must first decide what sexual orientation means.” He said the resolution also suggests that sexual orientation and gender identity are not part of international law. Although South Africa has shown some willingness to change its international relations policy relating to sexual orientation, there has been confusion about the direction to take because of the antigay prejudices of countries such as Russia, the African group and the Organisation of the Islamic Conference. Achmat said he is discussing the matter with the department of international relations and cooperation.
If South Africa’s proposal sounds ridiculous, that’s because it is. While we understand the country has gotten behind the U.S.-led statement “Ending Acts of Violence and Related Human Rights Violations Based On Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity,” which provides a non-binding consensus among 85 countries that LGBTs need protecting, South Africa’s entry into the space instead puts the breaks on such a progressive effort, in favor of tip-toeing around the issue of anti-queer violence.