By Susan Yoshihara, Ph.D.   Piero A. Tozzi, J.D.

NEW YORK, September 3, 2009 ( – This week leading conservative legal experts condemned a United Nations (UN) human rights committee's recent inclusion of “sexual orientation and gender identity” as a protected category under a cornerstone human rights treaty.

As reported in last week's Friday Fax , the committee that monitors the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), one of two implementing treaties of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, recently released its own re-interpretation in a “general comment” on the treaty's non-discrimination article. The bureaucratic body of mostly left-wing advocates added “gender identity and sexual orientation” as a new category “among the prohibited grounds of discrimination.” This is despite the fact that at least 60 states parties to the treaty dispute the categorization.

Steven Groves, a human rights expert at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative Washington DC-based think tank, told the Friday Fax, “Writing a general comment when there is consensus on an issue is one thing.  But writing one in the complete absence of consensus is really disturbing.”

Other critics see the move as a violation of sovereignty by attempting to impose “transnational” cultural norms upon countries around the world. The 1966 treaty contains no reference to “gender identity and sexual orientation,” and when nations negotiated the document, it was not intended to cover such novel categories.

George Mason University law professor Jeremy Rabkin, who has written extensively on the transnationalist threat to state sovereignty, said that the comment “seems to reflect European fashion rather than any serious consideration of what most countries have actually understood as 'discrimination.'”  He said that such a position may actually be “a set back for the effort to build respect for basic human rights in countries with poor records in this area,” as it undermines the claim that rights are universal and should be accepted by all. 

Rabkin asked, “How compelling can such claims be in countries where traditional religious standards are still respected?  What's the likely effect of this sort of ruling on people in Muslim countries, who hear from many that human rights advocacy is simply a seductive program for undermining Islam?”

Another criticism is that the committee, over objections from Member States, is advancing the highly controversial Yogyakarta Principles, an advocacy document prepared in 2007 by homosexual activists and some UN personnel but never negotiated by or otherwise agreed to by Member States of the UN.

One European critic of the Yogyakarta Principles, Jakob Cornides, faults the “distorted anthropology” inherent in the general comment. “In this new anthropology,” he explained, “nobody is a man or a woman, but everybody arbitrarily defines his own gender identity: male or female, homo- or heterosexual, trans- or bisexual.”

“In the normal order of things,” he added, “the natural purpose of sexuality is procreation, and 'sexual orientations' that are not oriented towards adult persons of the opposite sex are thus misguided. But if we accept that man is the product of his arbitrary self-definition, it is a logical consequence that everything can be re-defined – including sexuality, which according to the ICESCR bureaucrats does not seem to have anything to do with procreation, its primary purpose.” 

It is expected that the Committee will now begin telling States Parties to the treaty that they must change their laws based on the new reinterpretation and that lawsuits will result. A backlash from traditional countries is expected.