The leadership of the OIC

There were 18 countries which voted against the resolution with ten of them belonging to the OIC. Apart from Albania the other nine OIC members (Algeria, Morocco, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Maldives, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, UAE and Qatar) voted against the resolution.

Thus, the key locus of organized opposition was really the OIC. All the OIC countries which spoke highlighted the fact that in their perception, the resolution was opposed to religion, culture, and tradition and was hence an unacceptable imposition of values.

Qatar observed:

That’s why the rights advocated by this draft proposal at the Human Rights Council are, according to us, contrary to the sound human instinct and to all values, cultures and religious beliefs. Such a selective approach is an unprecedented move that would threaten all the efforts of the Human Rights Council. We know that there are some practices that might be accepted by some people in some communities and societies. However, this does not mean at all that such practices can be imposed on other countries. And they shouldn’t be described as being collectively accepted and endorsed. This might open the way to inserting new concepts that are irrelevant to principles of human rights and this is why we need to recognize the specificities of our cultural and religious backgrounds as per the Vienna Action Plan 1993.

UAE observed:

We reject the instrumentalisation of United Nations Human Rights and the use of Human Rights Council for strange and bizarre concepts that run counter to the United Nations resolution that established the Council. I would like clarify that we are a society that rejects violence and discrimination in all forms and manifestations. We don’t want to target any specific social group that is covered in the draft resolution L.2.

On the other hand, we as  people that have nothing to do with the content of the draft resolution express our rejection of any concept that compromises our cultural and religious specificities – even if these concepts are acceptable to others societies. In addition to that, the comparative law literature and sociology literature affirm that what might be good in a specific area will not necessarily give the same outcome in the other society and area.

Saudi Arabia observed:

We would like to say once again that respecting religions and beliefs has been considered in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. And, the universality of human rights doesn’t mean that we have to impose cultures that are contravening with our Muslim religion.

Indonesia observed:

While recognizing the mandate of the Human Rights Council to promote and protect human rights, we believe that the Council should always take a constructive and cooperative approach in the consideration of issues particularly of those involving different socio-cultural and religious norms and moralities. We believe that the members of the Council should always demonstrate the requisite sensitivity to them and refrain from imposing certain values and norms to others that do not enjoy international consensus.

Morocco observed:

Today we are facing a draft resolution that is against the values and beliefs of at least 1.5 billion that belong to one civilization. So what is the message that we would like to send to this civilization and religious community?

Algeria observed:

Yet we think that it is not useful to impose values which are not agreed upon universally upon others. This is a non-constructive approach and it will lead to divisions within the Council’s cause and we do not want this. The sexual orientation is merely an option or an alternative form of behaviors and we do not want a mandate holder for just such an issue.

The OIC opposition was quite organized and flowed from OIC policy decisions. This was outlined by Pakistan in the speech introducing the amendments.

OIC foreign ministers adopted in Kuwait a resolution at the 42nd session of the council of ministers which while referring to the Human Rights Council resolution on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity disagreed with the resolution and the concept it espoused.  We have, therefore, informed the core group of the draft resolution that the OIC shall not be able to support this initiative and especially will not be able to support an Independent Expert for a concept that has not yet been adopted by any universal inter governmental negotiated treaty or convention

The Resolution referred to by Pakistan is Resolution no. 4/42c on Social and Family Issues A. Safeguarding the values of the Marriage and Family Institutions:

Having considered the Statement of the Independent Permanent Human Rights

Commission (IPHRC); and the resolution of the Human Rights Council A/HRC/27/L.27/ Rev.1 on “Human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity”;

Commending the decision taken by the Council of the League of Arab States at the ministerial level, which rejects this Resolution;

Lauding the position of the Muslim and non-Muslim States which opposed the Resolution within the Human Rights Council;

Considering that the Resolution includes many issues which cannot be accepted as they are in total contradiction with the teachings and values of Islam and other divine religions and with the human common sense;

Decides to:

  1. Reject the entire content of the HRC Resolution and to endeavor to take a unified Islamic and human position to repeal it.[1]

The policy decision of the OIC was arrived at following the 2014 resolution.  The OIC resolution sees the SOGI question as ‘in total contradiction of the teachings and values of Islam’.  The resolution also affirmed the commitment of the OIC countries to ‘reject’ the 2014 resolution. Thus we must see the OIC vote and the OIC lobbying to prevent countries from voting for the resolution as flowing from the policy articulated in Resolution no. 4/42c on Social and Family Issues at the OIC.

However, in spite of this clear declaration of policy it is important to note that the OIC was not successful in ensuring that all OIC members voted against the resolution. Albania, who has been a member of the OIC since 1992, voted for the resolution. Albania said:

Albania fully supports the draft resolution L.2/Rev.1 that builds upon previous resolutions of 2011 and 2014 years in addressing these discrimination and violence against persons because of their sexual orientation and gender identity. The aim of this draft resolution is to appoint an Independent Expert which will work on the protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and the current state of the resolution doesn’t seek to create a new rights but simply affirms the application of existing human rights standards to those who are discriminated and abused because of who they are.

Albania chose not to address the OIC arguments head on, but rather articulated its position of voting for the SOGI resolution flowing from its support for universal human rights. The Albanian position may not be significant in terms of numbers, but very important in terms of ideas. Albania articulates the fact that opposition to SOGI issues is not a central tenet of Islam, that violence and discrimination on grounds of SOGI should be taken seriously and that all countries should follow the framework of universal human rights.