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India vote at U.N. not anti-gay, explains government

Under criticism for voting against the U.N. Secretary-General’s decision to extend marriage benefits to LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) couples or same-sex couples, India sought to explain that the vote was more about principle rather than its “anti-gay rights” content.

According to government officials, the reason for India’s vote was that the decision to extend the benefit was taken by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon “of his own accord” and “without consultations with member States.”

India was among 43 countries, along with China, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, which voted for the Russian resolution to withdraw benefits to same-sex couples. The resolution was defeated by the UNGA vote on Tuesday.

Faced with criticism over India’s vote, MEA spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said, “It was a complex issue of whether nationals of a state governed by their laws or others’ decisions. That was the basis on which the decision was taken.”

Significantly, India had abstained from voting on a previous resolution against LGBT discrimination that was passed by the UNGA in September 2014. However, officials claimed that the current resolution was related to “sovereignty issues” over the U.N.’s administrative and financial functions.

“Do states have the right or does the U.N. Secretary-General have the prerogative to decide on such matters,” asked an official.

Mr. Ban Ki-moon has taken a strong stand on gay rights and has passed several decisions seeking to end discrimination and violence against the LGBT community worldwide. During his visit to India in January 2015, he appealed to the government to repeal its anti-gay law -- Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code that criminalises homosexuality -- calling it a “matter of human rights and human dignity,” in an interview to The Hindu.

Indian diplomatic sources also said the issue was complicated by the ongoing tussle between Russia and the U.S., which is seeking to isolate Moscow internationally.

The resolution at the UNGA was proposed by Russia, a country that decriminalised homosexuality in 1993 but enforced a ban on “gay propaganda.” “We must speak plainly about what Russia tried to do today: diminish the authority of the U.N. Secretary-General and export to the U.N. its domestic hostility to LGBT rights,” the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, said in a statement after the vote.

Interestingly, India and Pakistan were the only two South Asian countries to vote for the Russian resolution. While Sri Lanka voted against the resolution, along with the U.S. in a bloc of 80 countries, Bhutan, Nepal and the Maldives abstained and Afghanistan did not vote.

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Printable version | Oct 26, 2020 8:43:31 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/india-vote-at-un-not-antigay-explains-government/article7032970.ece

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