UN headquarters in New York
(Pic: Steve Cadman)

South Africa is among 93 nations which voted on Tuesday to restore a reference to “sexual orientation” in a United Nations resolution condemning extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.

The move is a significant victory for human rights groups which lobbied to reverse last month’s vote by a UN General Assembly sub-committee responsible for human rights issues to remove the reference to “sexual orientation” from a paragraph highlighting vulnerable groups.

In that vote, South Africa was slammed for its shameful decision to support other African countries in deleting the reference to sexual orientation.

Tuesday’s vote passed 93 to 55, with 27 abstentions and 17 absent or not voting, and was led by the United States which introduced the amendment.

Speaking before the vote, Zimbabwe’s UN Ambassador Chitsaka Chipaziwa expressed her government’s continued homophobia by equating homosexuality to “bestiality, paedophilia and those other practices many societies would find abhorrent in their value systems”.

“In our view, what adult people do in their private capacity by mutual consent does not need agreement or rejection by governments, save where such practices are legally proscribed,” Chitsaka said.

Cary Alan Johnson, Executive Director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), welcomed the adoption of the amended resolution.

“This, of course, could not have happened without the concerted and passionate efforts of several governments. But what this victory also demonstrates is the power of civil society at the UN and working across countries and regions to demand that their own governments vote to protect LGBT lives,” said Johnson.

US Ambassador Susan Rice also expressed her approval of the vote.

“Today, the United Nations General Assembly has sent a clear and resounding message that justice and human rights apply to all individuals regardless of their sexual orientation,” she said.

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