GENEVA (AP) — The U.N.’s top human rights body on Thursday decided to appoint an expert to monitor violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, a move applauded by LGBT groups.
In a narrow 23-18 vote with six abstentions, the Human Rights Council called for the creation of a three-year position for an independent expert to look into wrongdoing against gays, lesbians and transgender people. The expert is expected to be appointed at the next meeting of the 47-member, Geneva-based body in September.
“This is truly momentous,” said Micah Grzywnowicz of the Swedish Federation for LGBTQ Rights in a statement. “This is our opportunity to bring international attention to specific violations and challenges faced by transgender and gender non-conforming persons in all regions.”
The resolution benefited from strong support from Latin America and the West, while many African and Middle Eastern countries joined China voting against it.
The expert’s duties will include assessing international human rights laws, raising awareness of violence based on sexual orientation, and engaging in dialogue with member states and other stakeholders.
“This will be a hard job,” U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power said in a statement. “In more than 70 countries around the world, same-sex activity or relationships are still criminalized. In some countries, LGBTI persons are harassed and even killed for who they are. In the United States, we witnessed the human cost of this horrifying threat during the June 12 terrorist attack in Orlando.”
The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association hailed the decision as a “turning point” that will boost international scrutiny of wrongdoing against people for their sexual orientation and gender identity.
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