South Africa has betrayed its human rights values by abstaining in a landmark vote at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to appoint a global LGBTI watchdog.
On Thursday, the council voted in Geneva to establish the first Independent Expert on Protection against Violence and Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.
Similar experts have been appointed by the UNHRC to deal with issuies such as torture and violence against women. The position would be for a three year period.
Following a fierce debate, the resolution was approved, with some compromises, by 23 countries and rejected by 18, with 6 abstentions. Shamefully, South Africa was one of the nations that chose to abstain.
According to BuzzFeed, South Africa’s representative at the council said that the country did not support the resolution because of the sponsors “arrogant and confrontational” approach. This suggests a bizarrely petulant stance instead of a focus on the substance of the resolution.
The representative reportedly further argued that South Africa’s struggle against Apartheid called for a more collaborative approach.
This argument was slammed by Graeme Reid, the South African born director of the LGBT Rights Programme at Human Rights Watch.
“The ambassador’s statement is a betrayal of the essence of South Africa’s constitution,” said Reid.
“To invoke the struggle against apartheid as justification for opposing a resolution on violence and discrimination is both inaccurate and cynical,” he added.
The move to appoint the LGBTI Expert was supported by 601 organisations from 147 countries.
Ironically, the resolution stemmed from a process initiated by South Africa in 2011 when it led in the formulation of a landmark resolution condemning violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.