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Gaining the right to speak at the UN: UN Committee on NGOs postpones decision on the status of ABGLT until January of 2008

in BRAZIL, 22/05/2007

May 17, 2007, International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO), ABGLT, the Brazilian Association of Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals, Transvestites and Transexuals, represented at the UN Committee of NGOs by Toni Reis and Beto de Jesus, responded to questions from Egypt, Quatar, Pakistan, Sudan, Burundi, Guiné, and Colombia.

The questions raised were:
1- if our organization had some program for sexual education in the schools, and if yes, in what age range;
2- what was our understanding of “free and egalitarian society;” and
3- what international activities do we participate in and what is our relationship with the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA).

These questions may sound somewhat strange because of our work in Brazil. It soon became clear though that the whole exercize was an attempt to prove our work is to promote homosexuality.

In his answer, Toni Reis said “the concept of a free and egalitarian society comes from the Constitution of Brazil which talks of “a society that assures the exercize of individual rights, of liberty, of security, of welfare (...) of equality and of justice as supreme values.”

When answering the questions on education, Beto de Jesus pointed out that “diversity is an essential social and pedagological resource as it humanizes the whole process of constructing knowledge. Our work goes far beyond the questions of sexual orientation. Our work raises ethnic-racial questions as well as questions about people with disabilities, education in rural areas, etc… It is about searching, in the field of education, for ways to live peacefully and in respect of all differences.

After these questions had been answered, the delegate from Egypt asked for more information on:
1 - our position on the age of consent for sexual relations; and
2 - our opinion on voluntary and involuntary sexual violence – in other words, sadomasochism.

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 want to deny ECOSOC status to gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transvestites, and transexuals

Of the countries that compose the Council, Dominica, Guinée, Pakistan, Quatar, and Sudan have laws that criminalize homosexuality and voted against our application. India and Angola also have laws which criminalize homosexuality, but through advocacy work with these delegations, India said that it will abstain, but had to consult with their country to vote favorably. We believe this is probably due to the work of the Brazilian Government and the support of ABGLT in relation to “breaking the patent” of efavirenz (an HIV/Aids drug) which generated work in India. Angola said it would vote in favor due to the recognized work of PN/DST/Aids (National Plan against STD and Aids) and CICT – the International Centre for Technical Cooperation – in partnership with Brazilian NGOs in its country.

Although Egypt leads the countries in the offensive against GLBT groups in this committee, it does not have laws specifically against homosexuality. Consensual sexual relationships in a private place between two adults of the same sex is not forbidden as such. However, the recent Law 10/1961, created to fight prostitution, has been used to arrest, indict, and convict gay men.

The majority in plenary decided that the status of ABGLT will be considered at the next meeting of the Council, because Egypt and Sudan have used a procedural rule in order to request information on how they should vote from their capitals.

In theory, as of today, May 18, 2007, we have counted the following votes:

- Favorable: Angola, Colombia, Israel, Peru, Romania, the United Kingdom and the United States
- Contrary: Burundi, China, Egypt, Guinè, Pakistan, Quatar, and Sudan
- Abstentions: Cuba, India, Turkey, Russia, and Dominica.

The Brazilian Government had an important role in advocating for favorable votes through their representative to the Council, Lucia Maria Maierà, of the Permanent Mission in New York. We will work together on a strategy for the next Council with actions in the UN in New York and in Brazil through the Foreign Affairs Ministery.

Another important indicator regarding our request is the work of the National Program of STD/Aids that was repeatedly mentioned in the speeches of the missions as a model to be followed for its contribution to the fight against AIDS in the world.

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