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Home » Human rights » DISCOURSE ON “NON-TRADITIONAL” FAMILY VALUES- A DISTRACTION TO THE UN HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL’S MANDATE

by Joseph Sewedo Akoro-

On March 18th 2014, during the general debate on item IV at the 25th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, I had the privilege to present a joint statement of COC- Netherlands and ILGA- organisations that enjoy ECOSOC status at the council. The statement presented, exposed the violence perpetrated through new anti-homosexuality legislation in Nigeria, Uganda and Russia. It also shared concerns of the distraction and confusion caused by the promotion of family values and non-traditional values and how they negatively impact in the promotion and protection of the rights of sexual minorities. The statement with recommendation to the Council reads thus:

“Mr. President,

In recent months we have observed alarming trends of States, including Russia, Nigeria and Uganda, passing deeply worrying legislation that severely restrict the right to freedom of expression, the freedom of assembly and association, access to information and criminalise civil society groups working on sexuality and gender issues.

Such laws not only violate human rights in and of themselves, they pave the way for mob violence and impunity. As the High Commissioner has noted, in Nigeria, since the adoption of the law, her office has received “reports of widespread arrests of LGBT people in some States, physical attacks, including by mobs, and other forms of harassment such as a rise in blackmail and extortion.”

In Uganda, immediately after the adoption of the anti-homosexuality legislation, a local newspaper published names and photos of homosexuals in a clear incitement to vigilantism. And in Russia, extremists have targeted LGBT persons for violence with impunity in the wake of a State clampdown on those seen to be promoting views deemed “non-traditional”.

Surely, whatever our differences, every member of this Council can agree that violence on any ground is wrong, and requires the attention of this Council?

Such legislation has been passed in wider cultures of impunity enjoyed by State with absolute disregard of constitutionally guaranteed fundamental human rights and as deliberate distractions from corruption, the rule of law and failure of States to provide basic social services and security to their citizens.

In these cases, the legislation has been justified by protection of so-called “traditional values”, a concept which is also being used to undermine key principles of universality, equality and non-discrimination here at the Council.

The Secretary General, the High Commissioner and numerous Special Rapporteurs have expressed concern about these laws. As the High Commissioner stated earlier this Council session in response to those States that deny LGBTI people their rights, and I quote: “Neither in the UN Charter nor in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights nor any of our Human Rights Treaties is there any language that would permit a State to exclude from human rights protection certain categories of individuals.”

The Council is responsible for promoting universal respect for the protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, without distinction of any kind. This includes sexual orientation and gender identity.

Mr. President,

Initiatives and resolutions at the Human Rights Council promoting cultural relativity, such as traditional values and protection of the family, detract attention from serious human rights abuses and prevent the Council from effectively fulfilling its mandate.

We therefore call on the Council to pay systematic attention to human rights violations against LGBTI people and speak out against states that adopt legislation restricting the fundamental freedoms of marginalized groups.

Thank you. “

The 25th session of the UN Human Rights Council can be followed by webcast through: http://www.un.org/webcast/unhrc/.

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