Current Affairs

Top UN expert’s resignation could spell trouble for LGBT rights

Jasmine Andersson September 14, 2017
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Member of the UN's quartet of special investigators on Syria, Vitit Muntarbhorn lookattends a press conference on October 25, 2012 at the United Nation Offices in Geneva. The members of a UN probe into rights abuses in Syria said "crimes against humanity" and "war crimes" were happening in the country, and said they were trying to set up a visit to Damascus. AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)

Vitit Muntarbhorn’s as from the UN’s first independent expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity has the potential to spell trouble for LGBT rights.

And the appointment of the independent expert led to one of the most polarised discussions and votes in the Council’s decade-long history.

Muntabhorn, who will be stepping down after a year in the role due to ill health and family responsibilities, is the first person to take up the role in the UN.



When the role was first introduced, a roster of countries including China, Russia and Nigeria tried to overturn the council’s resolution.

And now that Muntarbhorn is quitting the role after publishing just two reports in his tenure, the position, which investigates fundamental LGBT rights globally, will be placed in a position of vulnerability.

“The UN is left with the job of appointing his successor,” wrote Rosa Freedman Professor of Law, Conflict and Global Development at University of Reading in The Conversation.

“It’s very unusual for a mandate-holder to step down so quickly, and other Special Procedures mandate-holders have in the past been subjected to attacks, threats of violence, and intimidation.”

“It’s certainly possible that Muntarbhorn’s short tenure was made difficult behind the scenes by states or private actors who opposed the creation of his job from the off.”

At present, more than 70 states in the UN criminalise and discriminate against LGBT people.

“Given what has come before, those interested in protecting LGBT people from violence and discrimination should roll up their sleeves and prepare for another round in this fight,” warns the academic.

More: LGBT rights, the un, Vitit Muntarbhorn

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