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Muslim countries: No gay issues at UN

The Organisation of the Islamic Conference has secured a deal in which they will withdraw their opposition to a Brazilian gay NGO gaining accredited status at the UN in return for a ban on gay, lesbian or transgender issues being discussed.

The deal was struck with the Brazilian Government. It will allow a Brazilian organisation – Associação Brasileira de Gays, Lésbicas, Bissexuais, Travestis e Transexuais (ABGLT) – to attend a conferences hosted by the UN’s ECOSOC (the agency tasked with  “encouraging universal respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms”) as long as it is agreed that the agenda will be limited to racial and religious discrimination. Homophobia and persecution of sexual minorities must not, by the terms of the agreement, be mentioned.

Some observers have reacted with alarm since the deal logically negates the purpose of any LGBT representation at the UN – which is to advocate for respect for the human rights of gay people.

Brazil has long been a champion of LGBT representation at the UN, introducing in 2003 a resolution on ‘Human rights and sexual orientation’ – the so-called “Brazilian Resolution“. However, securing the gagged participation of ABGLT under these terms may be too much of a compromise.

Almost all Islamic countries criminalise gay people and the only countries in the world that impose the death penalty for homosexuality are Islamic. What the OIC has achieved is silencing any criticism of the most barbaric offenders against LGBT people. Securing the ABGLT’s limited participation at this cost is actually a defeat, not a victory.

Why the willingness to accept this ridiculous state of affairs? Cynics might point to Brazil’s considerable economic interests in the Middle East (particularly with Iran), but I think the truth is that this is as much as they could hope to gain. Honestly, who in the international community is actually going to stand up to the Islamic world’s treatment of women and LGBT people? Besides shaking a fist of impotent rage and indignation, what are we to do? In Seinfeldian terms, do we simply have no hand?