With conservative Arab nations like Morocco and Mali being fingered for successfully excluding “sexual orientation” from the list of inexcusable targeted killings — a resolution the United States abstained from voting on in its final form — arrives the argument that it’s actually no big deal. You think a U.N. resolution is going to keep gays safe?
“[A]bhorrent as this amendment was – and I condemn it utterly – it is questionable whether it will actually make things worse on the ground,” writes Patrick Strudwick, the British journalist who infiltrated secretive ex-gay therapy groups. “Although the ‘sexual orientation’ wording had been in place for years until this U-turn, many governments did nothing as the screams of gay people being butchered echoed all around. Furthermore, gay people are still theoretically included under the resolution’s condemnation of killing for ‘discriminatory reasons on any basis.’ No, there are deeper problems here that undermine the integrity of the UN and quell optimism about the organisation’s ability to secure positive change.”
Deeper problems? Like what?
First, there is a delicate diplomatic dance taking place between member states, and few want to disrupt it, whatever the cost. The motion to delete “sexual orientation” was introduced by Morocco and Mali “on behalf of African and Islamic nations” (according to Reuters). As Amnesty International explains: “The repression that gay and lesbian people face is often passionately defended by governments or individuals in the name of religion, culture, morality or public health … Same-sex relations are dubbed ‘un-Christian’, ‘un-African’, ‘un-Islamic’, or a ‘bourgeois decadence’.”
Britain and the US condemned the motion, and voted against it, along with 68 other countries (the US abstained from the final vote for the resolution). But, it would seem, another 79 countries would rather anoint other members’ cultural sensitivities – by which I mean bigotry, prejudice and hate – than try to protect vulnerable citizens. South Africa, for example, voted for the amendment despite its proud history as the first country to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation. Thus, the UN resembles a middle-class 1970s dinner party. When a guest makes a joke about “coons” everyone laughs nervously and looks down at their prawn cocktail.
Indeed. Rather than calling these nations out of their utter intolerance for certain classes of people, supposedly Western and progressive nations stand idly without so much as a peep. (That South Africa supported the amendment, sans sexual orientation protection, is particularly galling.) And while we can all sit here and bash the U.N. as being some meaningless, ineffective bureaucracy (and in many ways it is), it is still responsible for setting international tone. Which it just did, with inequality.