Press release

UK welcomes vote defending role of UN Expert

Human Rights Minister Baroness Anelay welcomes United Nations decision to support the UN’s first Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

A vote took place at the United Nations in New York today (Monday 21 November) to protect the UN’s Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity. Countries voted on an amendment, tabled by Latin American countries and backed by the UK, in relation to a UN resolution on the ‘Report of the Human Rights Council’.

The amendment was put forward following attempts by African Group delegations to call into question this important role, which focuses on areas such as protection against violence and discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Today’s result means that the attempt to block the work of the Independent Expert, whose mandate was established by a Human Rights Council resolution in June, was defeated.

Following the vote, Baroness Anelay said:

I welcome the outcome of today’s vote on this crucial amendment, which the UK actively supported and encouraged others to do the same. This sends a clear message that the international community must uphold the universality of human rights.

The attempt by a number of delegations to overturn the resolution risked setting a dangerous precedent – the UN General Assembly should not be used to unpick decisions that were made legitimately by the Human Rights Council.

This resolution must be upheld and the UK offers its full support to the Independent Expert, Mr Vitit Muntarbhorn, in his important work.

The UK is committed to promoting and protecting the rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGB&T) people. The FCO’s work in this area includes:

  • Tackling violence and discriminatory laws and practices: We urge those countries that continue to criminalise consensual same sex relations to take steps towards decriminalisation and the introduction of legislation that protects LGB&T people from all forms of discrimination. For example, after lobbying by the British High Commission, Mozambique revised its Penal Code in 2015 which led to consensual same-sex relations being decriminalised. In the first half of 2016, both the Seychelles and Nauru announced that they would decriminalise consensual same-sex relations, partly in response to international pressure.

  • Promoting the full and equal enjoyment of human rights: We use our embassies and high commissions to monitor and raise human rights concerns. As well as diplomatic lobbying, we encourage UK missions overseas to seek out appropriate opportunities to promote human rights and prevent discrimination., This year the FCO’s Magna Carta Fund for Human Rights and Democracy is providing approximately £900,000 in funding to projects promoting and protecting the rights of LGB&T people.

  • Promoting equality and providing services to British nationals overseas: In a number of countries around the world where marriage of couples of the same sex is not legal, British Embassies and Consulates perform marriages for couples of the same sex where one or both partners is a British national. We work with partner countries and through international organisations, including the UN, EU, OSCE, the Council of Europe and the Commonwealth, to promote inclusion. The UK is proud to be a member of the new Equal Rights Coalition, which brings together over 30 countries committed to working together to promote LGB&T equality globally.

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