The United Nations Human Rights Council

The UN Human Rights Council in Geneva

The New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) has expressed its concern that South Africa endorsed the exclusion of LGBT families from a resolution passed last month by the UN Human Rights Council.

The resolution, which called for “the protection of the family,” appears innocuous enough but activists are wary that it could be used as a basis to justify anti-LGBT efforts by some countries.

The fear that homosexuality is a threat to the singular traditional family unit has been used by conservative and religious elements and governments around the world to support cracking down on LGBT equality.

Writing for City Press on the weekend, the Director of the HRW LGBT Rights Programme, Graeme Reid, revealed that South Africa not only voted for the resolution, but also “supported an aggressive move by Russia to shut down discussion of more inclusive ‘family’ language.”

Reid, who is South African-born, said that the resolution excludes “previously agreed upon language that recognises the diversity of families in various and social and cultural contexts,” and that this deliberate exclusion was backed by South Africa.

He noted that “discourse around ‘protecting children’, ‘protecting the family’, and ‘upholding traditional values’ has been used to justify recent anti-LGBT legislation in Russia, Nigeria and Uganda.”

Reid asserted that “it is not the ‘family’ that should be protected, but rather individuals within families.”

He asked how South Africa could defend “throwing its weight behind a resolution that contradicts the values enshrined in its own Constitution, including gender equality and the rights of LGBT people,” adding that “South Africa has some explaining to do.”

While the country has been lauded for being behind a ground-breaking 2011 UN Human Rights Council resolution calling for an end to violence and discrimination against LGBT people, it has since appeared to backtrack on the issue.

In April, President Zuma was slammed for saying that “South Africa respects the sovereign rights of other countries,” like Uganda, to pass anti-gay laws.

A promise to host an “African regional seminar focusing on the plight of the LGBTI during the first half of this year” is yet unfulfilled, and despite pressure from activist groups, the government has refused to reveal if and when it will take place.

The groups have launched an online petition calling on the South African government to set the date for the regional seminar.

Get the Mamba Newsletter

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Send this to a friend