In June 2016, the Human Rights Council passed a resolution on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
The resolution called for the appointment, for a period of three years, of an Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, with the mandate to, amongst other things, “raise awareness over violence and discrimination against persons on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity, and identify and address the root causes of violence and discrimination.” The mandate also extends to “engage in dialogue and to consult with States and other relevant stakeholders”, to work in cooperation with States in order to foster the implementation of measures that contribute to the protection of all persons against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and to address the multiple, intersecting and aggravated forms of violence and discrimination faced by persons on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity.
You can read the resolution here, but you get the idea: LGBTQI+ face human rights violations, violence and discrimination, so the Human Rights Council thinks: Lord Jesus, Human Rights Violations, that might fall under our mandate, better hurry up and try and do something about it.
This all seems pretty straightforward right? Like, you’d think no one in their right mind sitting in the HUMAN RIGHTS Council room would boast saying ‘Wait, guys, I know we’re talking about human rights here, but we’d like to ensure protection to only SOME people, not every human, don’t push it, and we think LGBTQI+ people should not get protection under human rights law, okthxbye’. That can’t happen, right?
The resolution faced quite a bit of opposition, but the reaction by the Egyptian Ambassador at the UN in Geneva took the cake. So much clutching of pearls. So much use of the term “depravity”. So much toxic masculinity masquerading as anti-imperialism.
For, you see, as soon as the resolution was declared passed, Egypt’s permanent delegate to the United Nations Amr Ramadan said that his country will not comply with any “pro-homosexual” resolutions passed by the United Nations. I have to say, I kind of loved the term “pro-homosexual”. It brought about visions of hordes of queer people spraying all UN resolutions in rainbow glitter, and the Egyptian delegate choking on it. But I digress.
He went on to say such resolutions were “worthless” (Human Rights Council resolutions not being legally binding, they can indeed seem “worthless” to some. However, given how hard Egypt tried, and sadly, managed, to get a seat on the Council, one is forced to wonder why they’d want to participate so bad to an institution they deem worthless), “contrary to international law” (actually, Mr Ramadan, Human Rights Law is kind of all about protection, equality and non-discrimination, but never mind, I’m sure you loved the sound of your own voice saying that, just the way you dreamt it would be while you were watching Perry Mason in your mother’s living room) and “not in line with Egypt’s culture and values”.
The cultural relativism argument is always a good one, because you can argue the universality of human rights until blue in the face; these people are the honey badgers of human rights mechanisms and just don’t give a shit. This is actually how such a conversation would go:
- Person trying to have a rational, legal conversations (person 1): But many instruments reiterate the universality of human rights-
- Proponent of cultural relativism (person 2): Perversion!
- Person 1: Interdependence of –
- Person 2: Western Values!
- Person 1: Indivisibility –
- Person 2: Imperialism!
Like arguing with Trump during a presidential debate (ISIS! Iran! China! Nasty!), proponents of the cultural relativism argument have some choice words that they just put on repeat (Perversion! Imperialism! Western Values! Nasty!) so that they can avoid being accountable for the gross human rights violations they perpetrate and/or allow to be perpetrated. Given Mr Ramadan's “understanding” of international law and LGBTQI+ issues, it was like Dinstein and Joseph Massad collided in his brain, so that he could arbitrarily decide what is compliant with international law and what is in line with Middle Eastern “culture and values”. Apparently, according to Mr Ramadan and the government he represents, it’s fine to express solidarity following the mass shooting of mostly Latinx people in Orlando, but LGBTQI+ people at home should be harassed, jailed, raped, beaten, and killed, all because “these depraved homosexual thoughts are fine in the Western world but contrary to our culture”.
If all of this seems like a laughable clusterf*ck of nonsense to you, take heart in the thought that Egypt did all of the above while it was not even an actual member of the Council. But they are now. For three years.
So much manic laughter to look forward to.