A Seat at the Table: International LGBTQ Rights at the United Nations

  • Citation: Linde, Robyn. "A Seat at the Table: International LGBTQ Rights at the United Nations." Global Policy Journal 26 (2015).
    • Topics:
    • Human Rights
    • Keywords:
    • LGBTQ rights
    • LGBTQ movement
    • discrimination
    • United Nations (UN)

There is at the present time no binding international law that protects lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) individuals based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, nor are there any key organs or agencies of the United Nations that are specifically committed to their protection. While the success of marriage equality campaigns in North America, Europe and elsewhere might be seen as an indication that further advances in LGBTQ rights and protections are inevitable, that a tipping point has been reached on LGBTQ equality, and that we are witnessing the rapid expansion of these rights throughout the world, empirical evidence of state-sponsored homophobia does not support these claims. There is a large divide between the rights and protections enjoyed by Western LGBTQ individuals and those who live in the Global South. Being LGBTQ is punishable under law in more than 75 countries; another eight allow the death penalty for same-sex acts or “propaganda” (International Lesbian and Gay Association, 2015). Nonetheless, statements by the U.N. General Secretary Ban Ki-moon proclaiming LGBTQ rights as human rights in late 2012 were promising, as are the more recent global condemnation of Uganda, Cameroon and Nigeria for their enactment of draconian punishments for “homosexuals.” Despite these promising developments, initiatives to include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected categories under international law have to date largely failed at the United Nations.

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