UNITED NATIONS (UPDATED) – The Philippines was among 25 countries that supported a landmark United Nations resolution upholding the rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.
The predominantly Catholic country voted “yes” to a UN Human Rights Council resolution against discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
“[The Council] expresses grave concern at acts of violence and discrimination, in all regions of the world, committed against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity,” read the resolution.
In a vote of 25-14 with 7 abstentions, the Council adopted the resolution on Friday, September 26, at its office in Geneva despite opposition from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation due to “religious and cultural values.”
This is only the second time in the Council’s history that it adopted a resolution on LGBT rights, and the first time it did so with a majority of its members.
Based on a summary provided by the UN Office at Geneva, the Philippines explained that it was bound by “its strong commitments to promote and protect all individuals.”
“[The Philippines] stood against discrimination against specific individuals and sectors, including discrimination and violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity,” stated the summary.
“The Philippines understood that the proposed resolution aimed only to discuss the discrimination and violence against these individuals and that it would not create new rights for specific individuals with specific sexual or gender orientation. The Philippines would support the resolution.”
Besides the Philippines, also voting in favor of the resolution were Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Cuba, Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Montenegro, Peru, Republic of Korea, Romania, South Africa, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, United Kingdom, United States of America, Venezuela and Vietnam.
The 14 against were Algeria, Botswana, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Gabon, Indonesia, Kenya, Kuwait, Maldives, Morocco, Pakistan, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates.
Those abstaining were Burkina Faso, China, Congo, India, Kazakhstan, Namibia, and Sierra Leone.
Not all 193 UN member states are part of the 47-member Council. The Philippines’ term expires this year.
‘LGBT rights are human rights’
The resolution requests the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to create a report for “sharing good practices and ways to overcome violence and discrimination, in application of existing international human rights laws and standards.”
An earlier version of the resolution wanted a regular report biannually but the amendments watered this down.
Still, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) hailed the adoption of the resolution as “an important step toward progress for equality and human rights for LGBT individuals.”
Many LGBT people continue to be harassed, arrested, and even killed simply because of who they are or who they love.
“The council is confirming that LGBT people have universal human rights. We know, of course, that the struggle is long, and that we will need the Council to focus on the violations we suffer for many years to come. But for now, we celebrate that the majority of States stood with us to declare, unequivocally, that human rights are for everyone, everywhere,” said Jessica Stern, executive director of IGLHRC.
Stern said the Council took a “fundamental step forward” by affirming the UN principle that everyone is equal in dignity and rights.
“This resolution puts the UN on a trajectory to address the discrimination and violence LGBT persons suffer daily across the world.”
Filipino LGBT rights advocate Jonas Bagas also hailed the vote on his Twitter account.
Philippines against discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation & gender identity, votes in favor of resolution. #ItsTimeHRC— jonas bagas (@jonasbagas) September 26, 2014
US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power likewise welcomed the resolution. “This resolution mandates a much-needed UN report that will investigate and bring to the world’s attention the violence and discrimination faced by individuals around the world simply because of their sexual orientation and gender identity.”
A report of USAID and the UN Development Programme titled “Being LGBT in Asia” noted that LGBT individuals in the Philippines face discrimination in education and employment, and lack political representation and information on HIV.
Danton Remoto of Ang Ladlad also told the Wall Street Journal that there is no overarching anti-discrimination law against LGBTs, with the bill still pending before Congress.
“The current challenges include hate crimes perpetrated mostly against transgenders; and the lack of employment opportunities for poor LGBTs,” Remoto said.
More than 76 countries still criminalize consensual adult same-sex relationships, while in many more countries discrimination against LGBT people is widespread – including in the workplace and in the education and health sectors, the UN said.
A study that the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights conducted found a “deeply disturbing pattern of violence and discriminatory laws and practices” affecting people on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity.
‘End homophobia, transphobia’
The adoption of the resolution comes a day after the UN held a high-level dialogue on combating violence targeting LGBT. The event was held at the UN Headquarters in New York where world leaders affirmed their commitment to LGBT rights.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said that ending homophobia and transphobia is a “great human rights cause.”
“I speak out against the appallingly high levels of stigma, discrimination and violence people suffer because of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” Ban said.
US Secretary of State John Kerry said the US has come a long way in protecting LGBT rights but many challenges remain.
“The fact is that we’ve seen that LGBT communities face discriminatory laws and practices that attack their dignity, undermine their safety, and violate their human rights. Many LGBT people continue to be harassed, arrested, and even killed simply because of who they are or who they love,” Kerry said.
“We have a moral obligation to speak up against marginalization and persecution of LGBT persons. We have a moral obligation to promote societies that are more just and more fair, more tolerant.” – Rappler.com
Rappler multimedia reporter Ayee Macaraig is a 2014 fellow of the Dag Hammarskjöld Fund for Journalists. She is in New York to cover the UN General Assembly, foreign policy, diplomacy, and world events.