NEW YORK, May 19, 2011 (C-FAM) – The UN bureaucracy is increasing its efforts to decriminalize homosexual behavior and normalize its acceptance among member states, without governmental consent or consensus.

“The principle that no one should suffer discrimination on the basis of their sexuality or gender identity is already fully integrated into our current international human rights standards,” claimed UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navanethem Pillay in a recently released video message on homophobia. 

“Under international law, States have an obligation to decriminalize homosexuality and to protect individuals from discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation,” she stated.

This message is false, according to a growing body of international legal experts and UN Member States.  The international community continues to vigorously debate the principle of non-discrimination based on sexual orientation, and has been doing so for over five years.  As recently as this past March, the UN member states battled aggressively in Geneva over the idea of sexual orientation being included as a protected non-discrimination category.  Similar debates took place in Geneva in 2008 and 2006, without resulting in agreement.

The mere inclusion of the term “sexual orientation” into a resolution on the death penalty in the General Assembly this past fall resulted in a month-long battle that pitted the US and Western European countries against a majority of nations in the developing world who opposed the inclusion of the controversial and undefined term. 

Pillay’s statement that states have an obligation to decriminalize homosexual relations does not jibe with reality. There is no internationally negotiated consensus document or treaty from the United Nations recognizing that states have an obligation to decriminalize homosexual relations in national law. 

As recently as September 2010, Pillay and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) admitted that ending discrimination against homosexuals would be a “test of our existing human rights framework and international human rights institutions.  The various international treaties … do not explicitly refer to violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity, although the inclusiveness of the language on non-discrimination in the Universal Declaration … provides a good basis for extending protection in that direction.” 

Five UN treaty bodies have done just that, issuing general comments and concluding observations claiming that existing treaty language on non-discrimination establishes obligations on states to end discrimination based on sexual orientation.  However, treaty bodies are being criticized by developed and developing nations alike for going beyond their mandated tasks.

Released along with Pillay’s video message was a brochure entitled, “The United Nations Speaks Out: Tackling Discrimination on the Ground of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.” Sponsored by the World Health Organization, UNAIDS, and the UN Development Program, the brochure references twenty statements made by senior UN officials, UN independent experts, and guidance from treaty bodies about the importance of decriminalizing same-sex relations and protecting homosexual and transgendered people from all forms of discrimination.  Notably, there is no reference to any document of the UN General Assembly or decision of sovereign member states. 

Many human rights experts worry that creating rights in such non-democratic ways could cause the entire human rights regime to teeter.