India again abstains at U.N. vote on LGBTQ Independent Expert, draws criticism

India’s abstention drew widespread criticism especially since it came after the Supreme Court struck down Section 377 and decriminalised the LGBTQ community.

July 12, 2019 09:45 pm | Updated 09:45 pm IST - New Delhi

BANGALORE, 27/10/2011: Members of Karnataka Sexual Minorities participating in Bangalore Pride in Bangalore on November 27, 2011.
Photo: G.P. Sampath Kumar

BANGALORE, 27/10/2011: Members of Karnataka Sexual Minorities participating in Bangalore Pride in Bangalore on November 27, 2011. Photo: G.P. Sampath Kumar

India on July 12 abstained at the vote for extending the mandate of an important U.N. official who reports on violence and discrimination against sexual minorities.

India’s abstention at the resolution for term-renewal of the Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva drew widespread criticism from activists especially since it came after the Supreme Court struck down Section 377 and decriminalised the LGBTQ community.

The resolution received support from most of the member countries at the Human Rights Council but India, Angola, Burkina Faso, Cameron, Congo, Hungary, Togo and Senegal abstained during the final voting. Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, China, Bangladesh, Bahrain, Qatar, Somalia opposed the resolution. India had also abstained during the 2016 vote on appointment of the Independent Expert . The current Independent Expert is Victor Madrigal Borlioz of Costa Rica.

Activists pointed out that though India abstained but they were surprised to see that the Indian delegation supported some of the amendments that were brought by countries that opposed the work of the Independent Expert. They chose Nepal and Philippines for supporting the resolution which was about opposing violence against the LGBTQ persons, which is essentially a form of gender violence. An activist who worked on mobilising online opinion for the resolution said that the abstention of 2016 was before the landmark Supreme Court pronouncement on Section 377 and therefore India’s latest abstention which comes after the Supreme Court’s decision against 377 is disappointing.

The Resolution numbered L10 Rev 1 granted an extension of three years to the Independent Expert to carry on reporting on incidents of violence against the LGBTQ community all over the world. The Resolution will help integrating the work of the crucial official into the larger body of global work by the United Nations. The text of the resolution specifically asked the U.N. for providing financial support to the official in implementing the mandate.

It also urged member countries of the U.N. to support the Independent Expert in carrying out the mandate of protection of the vulnerable sexual minorities. Accordingly the Expert will submit an annual report to the U.N. General Assembly and the UNHRC.

Earlier leaders like Shashi Tharoor, Priya Dutt and Supriya Sule had urged the government to support the renewal of the term of the Independent Expert and prevent discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

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