Saturday, December 20, 2008

Predictable bigotry

On Thursday, 66 countries supported a landmark declaration in the UN General Assembly calling for full equality regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, the legalisation of homosexuality, and an end to "violence, harassment, discrimination, exclusion, stigmatisation and prejudice" against gay, lesbian, bi and transgender persons. The declaration was widely supported by European and South American countries (who are leading the struggle for human rights at the moment). Notably absent from the list of supporters? The United States. They were the only country in the civilised world who refused to sign.

Still, it could have been worse. At least they didn't sign the competing declaration, backed by the Organisation of the Islamic Conference and the Vatican, which claimed that ending anti-gay bigotry could lead to "the social normalization, and possibly the legitimization, of many deplorable acts including pedophilia". And people wonder why religion is associated in the public mind with bigotry...

The declaration isn't any sort of official UN treaty. But now the issue has been broached (yes, really, it took them 60 years to start talking about it), and we can start pressing for real action. And hopefully soon we'll see a UN Convention on gay rights, or an optional protocol to the ICCPR and ICESCR to bring gender identity and sexual orientation fully within the UN human rights system.