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Gaining the right to speak at the UN

in WORLD, 25/05/2007

Discriminatory trend continues at UN as Committee on NGOs fails to recomend consultive status with ECOSOC to three national federations defending the rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people.

May 18, 2007 – New York, U.S.A. The United Nations Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) voted to recommend denial of ECOSOC status to Swedish LGBT federation RFSL and deferred consideration of two other LGBT national federations: FELGT from Spain and ABGLT from Brazil.

The three organizations had applied for ECOSOC status at the UN, an observatory status which allows an NGO to participate in certain UN Sessions.

Since 1992 when the first speech on sexual minorities was given in its name at the UN, ILGA has pressed to have human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity addressed by this international forum.

In 2005, ILGA began its “ECOSOC Campaign”, an initiative aimed at increasing the number of LGBT groups applying for ECOSOC status in order to allow LGBT human rights defenders to address the UN in their own name. ILGA has also been facilitating the presence of LGBT activists at the United Nations Human Rights Council since 2003.

In December 2006, after a year-long and harsh consideration by the ECOSOC, consultive status was granted to three LGBT organizations: ILGA-Europe, the European Region of the International Lesbian and Gay Association, and the Danish and German national LGBT associations, LBL and LSVD. This allowed ILGA to invite a number of activists to the Human Rights Council (HRC) in the name of its European region and to address the floor of the HRC plenary on two occasions.

Egypt and Sudan led the opposition to granting status to RFSL, FELGT and ABGLT. Egypt first attempted to close RFSL’s application, an unprecedented procedural move usually reserved for NGOs which fail to respond to questions from the Committee. When that effort failed, the Committee decided to recommend denial of the ECOSOC status to RFSL by a vote of 8 to 6. A final decision will be made in July 2007 when the ECOSOC Committee meets in Geneva.

The various national federations had sent representatives to the session in order to respond to questions raised by the committee members.

Beto de Jesus and Toni Reis from ABGLT, a federation which gathers some 200 groups in Brazil recall: “It soon became clear that the whole exercize was an attempt to prove our work was about promoting homosexuality. There was no doubt the questions, which seems to be as pointless as infinite, were part of a strategy not to say directly that they would deny in any possible way ECOSOC status to gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transvestites, and transexuals groups.”

Questions revolved around the age of consent, sexual education programs, the associations’position in regard to paedophilia and to voluntary and involuntary sexual violence.

Egypt’s representative asked David Montero from FELGT about the Spanish Federation’ sex education programmes, its affiliation with the International Lesbian and Gay Association and its views on paedophilia.

The activist responded by saying FELGT had received financing from the Spanish Government for projects carried out in partnership with the International Lesbian and Gay Association. “FELGT does have programmes to end homophobia in public schools. Our federation upholds Spanish law, which prohibits sex with people younger than 18 years of age.” David Montero concluded that “Promoting sex education for students under 18 -- which was part of the ethics, health, values and sex curricula taught in public schools - was not the same as condoning paedophilia.”

Although the NGO Committee had processed applications from FELGT and ABGLT and questioned the organizations extensively, it decided to defer their applications until the next session in January 2008.

“We are not disheartened by the intolerance and hatred behind the decision but will continue to actively advocate for the issues towards the Ecosoc committee” comments Sören Andersson, president of RFSL.

“The decision today proves that issues regarding homosexuals, bisexuals and transgender people have a place at the UN and so do the organizations advocating for the issues.”

Despite this setback, ILGA encourages these organizations in their efforts and will continue working on creating the conditions of an international dialogue on sexual orientation and gender identity to take place at the United Nations.

Read the press releases from the United Nations, the Brazilian, and Swedish, LGBT federations for more information.
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