SA's UN vote an 'insult' to LGBTI community

2016-07-05 15:33

Johannesburg – South Africa’s decision to abstain from voting on a UN resolution to prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation was shocking and an insult, a rights group said on Tuesday.

"This is really concerning and insulting to LGBTI people, because South Africa chose to build solidarity with African countries which are homophobic and discriminate against sexual minorities," Access Chapter 2 director Steve Letsike told News24.   

South Africa’s position at the UN was shocking and ignored its own Constitution, she said. 

The South African government abstained from voting on the resolution at the UN Human Rights Council last Thursday.

The resolution was passed with 23 votes for, 18 against, and 6 abstentions. No African country voted in favour of the resolution.

It establishes an independent expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity for the next three years.

Letsike said South Africa had shown inconsistencies in its policies relating to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and/or intersex (LGBTI) community.

Letsike said her organisation and several other partners, such as Pan Africa LGBTI, had lobbied for two weeks to change the government’s decision on its vote, but to no avail. They wrote to the international relations department, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, and Deputy Justice Minister Thabang Makwetla.

The government explained its decision to abstain by saying: "The draft resolution added unnecessary divisiveness, building on the previous African initiative of 2012."

Letsike said South Africa had a national task team to address hate crimes on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. South Africa could, thus, not be inconsistent in international forums.

The only explanation for South Africa’s abstention was that it feared becoming marginalised on the continent. This, however, was no excuse for betraying the values and principles enshrined in the Constitution, Letsike said.

"South Africa should have sent a clear message that we stand by the rights of our people," she added. 

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