GENEVA, September 21, 2012, (C-FAM)—UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon courted controversy last week when he told nations on the Human Rights Council to place lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transsexual rights and reproductive rights at the forefront of the United Nations human rights agenda.

Ban Ki-moon addressed UN delegations at the opening of the 21st regular session of the Human Rights Council, applauded the work of the Council in 2012, and said that “in particular, I welcome the groundbreaking, first-ever intergovernmental discussion, in March this year, on discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity.”


The Secretary General was referring to a highly controversial panel discussion on LGBT rights that took place during the last regular session of the Human Rights Council. Seventeen of the 47 states that are members of the Human Rights Council staged a walk out on the panel of experts.

On that occasion, Saeed Sarwar, a delegate speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation that represents 57 countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, asked that the Human Rights Council stop entertaining the issue entirely.

But Ban Ki-moon last week told the Human Rights Council that the March panel discussion “should not be a one-time event.” He went further: “I urge you to deepen your engagement on this issue so that protection and dignity truly reach all members of the human family.”

Advocates for LGBT rights have tried, so far unsuccessfully, to make sexual orientation and gender identity categories of non-discrimination in international law since the 1990s, claiming that existing human rights protections that apply equally to all individuals are insufficient.

Pressure on countries that view homosexual behavior and other sexual practices as deviant is mounting. The Secretary General’s promotion of LGBT rights has been more frequent and insistent since his second term began just over a year ago. In addition to the UN bureaucracy, pressure is coming from the U.S. Department of State, the UK Foreign Office, and several European Countries are promoting LGBT rights in the international community.

Ban Ki-moon’s insistence that “[W]e must fight for the rights of women, including their reproductive rights” also appeared to be a direct jab at nations with traditional societies who are resisting the pressure from Western states and UN staff to liberalize social policies. 

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The term “reproductive rights” was rejected outright by UN member states during negotiations for the most recent and authoritative political document from the United Nations, at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, precisely because the term has grown to be so closely associated with abortion.

The UN General Assembly formed the Human Rights Council in 2006 to replace the Human Rights Commission. The commission, operating under the UN Economic and Social Council, was discredited for failing to highlight widespread human rights abuses, and for grandstanding by nations considered to be rights abusers.

Reprinted from C-FAM.