One of the world’s leading forums for international human rights quietly banned discussion of LGBTQ issues in its upcoming session.
During the 139th assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), a majority of representatives voted down a proposal to address the subject of LGBTQ rights as an “emergency item” in its next meeting, which is scheduled for April 2019. More than 70 percent of MPs rejected the proposal.
The campaign against bringing LGBTQ issues to the table was led by the IPU’s Ugandan delegation.
When the vote came down on Oct. 16, Ugandan MP Rebecca Kadaga — who declined to comment for this story — accused countries like Canada and Belgium of attempting to “smuggle” queer and trans rights into the dialogue.
“I am so happy that this battle has finally been won,” she remarked at the time.
Other representatives from Uganda, where same-sex activity is prohibited by law, confirmed the country would continue fighting any mention of sexual orientation or gender identity at the biannual summit held in Geneva, Switzerland. MP Francis Mwijukye called homosexuality “inhuman and anti-culture.”
Meanwhile, Ugandan delegate Akamba Paul said debating divisive issues like LGBTQ rights is against the IPU’s mission.
“Article 1(2) of the IPU statute states that the Inter-Parliamentary Union shall work for peace and cooperation among peoples and for the solid establishment of representative institution and also contribute to the defense and promotion of human rights, which are universal in scope,” he argued.
“The agenda presented here has been widely rejected by many member states hence lacking universality in scope,” Paul added.
Uganda was joined by China, Iran, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Uganda, and Zimbabwe in voting against the proposal. During the IPU’s March meeting, Kadaga threatened to boycott if LGBTQ issues were included in the agenda.
The proposal was originally drafted by the Committee on Democracy and Human Rights, where it was widely supported.
Advocacy groups strongly condemned the erasure of LGBTQ people from the IPU. Critics claimed the vote would prevent parliamentarians from coordinating on efforts to better the lives of sexual and gender minorities around the world.
“Parliamentarians worldwide have a duty to represent and protect their constituents, including the hundreds of millions of people who are LGBTQ,” said ILGA Executive Director André du Plessis in a statement to INTO. “Lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer people vote, pay taxes, and have a basic right for their issues to be heard.”
“To silence discussion on issues of discrimination, violence, exclusion, health and poverty of LGBTQ persons is, frankly, unacceptable,” he added.
Amnesty International called the vote “alarming and disappointing.”
“When politicians get to decide who have rights and who don’t, our rights are placed at risk,” claimed Adotei Akwei, Amnesty’s deputy director of advocacy and government relations, in an email to INTO. “When they can ban basic discussion on the nature of those rights, we are all in danger.”
The “promotion of human rights” is one of the “core objectives” of the IPU, as Akwei further noted.
Established in 1888, the IPU seeks to further “peace and cooperation among peoples.” Its current membership includes more than 170 countries, including Denmark, France, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom.
Although the United States withdrew participation from the IPU in 1999, the vote to prohibit discussion on LGBTQ rights could be seen as particularly concerning following a Wednesday report that U.S. diplomats are attempting to erase allusions to gender identity in United Nations policy.
As The Guardian claimed, officials sought to replace the phrase “gender-based violence” with “violence against women” in a sex trafficking report.
Calling the phrase “vague and politically correct,” representatives from the Trump administration say the language reflects “what it sees as an ‘ideology’ of treating gender as an individual choice rather than an unchangeable biological fact.”
But in comments shared with INTO, the U.S. Mission to the United Nations rejected claims it was attempting to erase trans people in its international policy.
“In no way is the United States attempting to exclude the protection of transgendered [sic] persons, or protection of any person, in any U.N. resolution,” a representative claimed in a statement. “This administration is against discrimination of any kind and is committed to inclusive, non-discriminatory, and integrated international development.”
Although the IPU works closely with the U.N. to further its goals, some questioned how much influence the group actually has on international discourse.
INTO reached out to a dozen advocates working on global LGBTQ rights to comment on the vote. Many had never heard of the IPU, while some advocates (who asked not to be named in this story) dismissed the organization as “obscure” and a place for parliamentarians to get together to “talk shop.”
Although the IPU does not have power to draft legislation, others claimed the organization can add to an “unofficial consensus on an issue.”
“This position against LGBTQ rights matters as it validates Uganda’s position, empowers and emboldens Ugandan MPs and MPs from other homophobic countries, and expands the idea that LGBTQ rights [are] not legitimate human rights,” a source told INTO.
“It could also be a stepping stone to pushing for similar positions in larger intergovernmental entities,” the official added.
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