An analysis of how countries voted with respect to novel non-discrimination categories based on “sexual orientation and gender identity” in a United Nations (UN) General Assembly (GA) resolution last month reveals an emerging global line-up on contentious social issues that has traditionally-Catholic nations aligned with social “progressives.”
Voting to delete reference to a treaty body “General Comment” was a victorious coalition of socially-conservative nations centered in Africa, the Islamic world and parts of the English-speaking Caribbean. The losing side was led by Global North nations – European Union states, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United States. What is significant, however, is the defection to this group by most traditionally-Catholic nations.
A host of Latin American countries – Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay – joined by nations such as the Philippines, voted to retain reference to the Comment containing the new categories.
The terms “sexual orientation and gender identity” are controversial because they have never been consented to in a legally-binding document nor clearly defined, and are favored by activists promoting a broad homosexual-rights agenda. Critics contend that once sexual orientation and gender identity are accepted as non-discrimination categories, a new-found right would emerge to trump traditional free speech rights and religious liberties as has happened in countries such as Sweden, Canada, and even the United States.
The shift by Latin delegations over the years has been marked. At the 1995 Beijing Women’s Conference, Latin American delegates, particularly from Central America, successfully objected to expansive definitions of the word “gender” not tied to the two biological sexes. In recent years social progressives have dominated certain Latin American delegations, however, pushing agendas at the UN that regularly meet with resistance at home.
Thus at last year’s Commission on Population and Development meeting, a delegate from Honduras affiliated with the lesbian activist group Cattrachas promoted language construed to include a multiplicity of family forms beyond the traditional one headed by a married husband and wife.
A disconnect between the positions taken at the UN and the stance of such countries domestically is evident in the December GA vote. The Dominican Republic, for example, recently amended its constitution to protect the traditional understanding of marriage in what was deemed a rebuff by homosexual rights advocates. In overwhelmingly Catholic Philippines, a bill seeking to penalize discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity has languished in the legislature, prompting proponents to call for pressure to be applied by “stakeholders inside and outside the Philippines.”
Despite the apparent fixing of camps on social issues, a certain amount of fluidity remains. In December’s sexual orientation GA vote, Communist Cuba and left-wing Nicaragua favored deleting the reference, with Brazil and Bolivia abstaining and Venezuela absenting itself. Sources speculate their positions may in part reflect solidarity among developing nations rather than positions on the merits of the resolution.
One delegate told the Friday Fax that the Europeans were “overconfident” before the vote, and discounted the resentment that heavy-handed pushing of novel norms generates in much of the world.