Muslim States Ban LGBT Groups From U.N. Meeting

A group of 51 states, collectively known as the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, has denied 11 LGBT organizations access to a high-level meeting at the United Nations. The meeting, which was scheduled for next month, would be discussing the prospects of ending AIDS. The action of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation has sparked protests from United States, Canada, and the European Union, among other nations.

The Egyptian ambassador to the United Nations, Amr Abdellatif Aboulatta, wrote to the president of the General Assembly, Mogens Lykketoft, on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. The participation of the 11 groups were objected in his letter, but no explicit reasons were provided for it, according to Reuters.

Western officials however were quick to point out that nearly all of the groups that were denied access were involved in the LGBT rights movement. Officials from the U.S., the EU, Canada, and Australia expressed their displeasure to the U.N. officials. The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, protested the action in her own letter to the president of the General Assembly, stating that the disallowed groups had been chosen “based on their involvement in LGBTI advocacy.” She further justified her stand, in a comment.

“Given that transgender people are 49 times more likely to be living with HIV than the general population, their exclusion from the high-level meeting will only impede global progress in combating the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

“The movement to block the participation of NGOs on spurious or hidden grounds is becoming epidemic and severely damages the credibility of the U.N.”

Ambassador Joao Vale de Almeida voiced the European Union’s concern on the matter, demanding the names of the countries that had objected on the presence of these groups in the meeting and their reason for doing so. Britain’s deputy ambassador for the U.N., Peter Wilson, stated that it is vital that all communities are included for this meeting to be successful.

“It’s wrong to block access to the U.N. for transgender organizations and gay organizations that have every right to participate in this important discussion.”

The Canadian and Australian representatives also voiced their concerns on the matter both pointing out that it was not okay to just exclude certain communities without any justification when discussing a sensitive issue like HIV/AIDS.

When the arrangements for this AIDS conference were negotiated last year, some of the member states had negotiated the right to deny the participation of certain NGOs without any justification. More than 400 NGOs had applied to participate in this meeting, and the president’s office had received objections on 39 of those. That number was eventually narrowed down to 22, 11 of which are NGOs involved in the LGBTI movement.

LGBTI UN

This isn’t the first time an issue related to LGBTI rights has sparked a row among nations in the United Nations assembly. The Secretary-General of the U.N., Ban Ki-moon, has continually advocated for LGBT equality, and has faced opposition from Muslim states, as well as Russia and China. In 2014, he proclaimed that the U.N. would recognize same-sex marriages among its staff, allowing them to receive marriage benefits. A coalition led by Russia and backed by 43 countries including China, India, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Iran tried to oppose the move but ultimately failed to overturn it.

Similarly, the U.N. faced a lot of opposition last year when it released six new U.N. stamps promoting LGBT equality. The 54-member African Group, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the 25-member Group of Friends of the Family led by Belarus, Egypt, and Qatar protested the release of these stamps.

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