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Language and laws

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Nearly 40 countries at the United Nations have backed LGBTQ families earlier this week, at a time when some Muslim and African nations are contesting sexual orientation and gender identity language in UN forums.

A statement signed by 37 countries at the UN Human Rights Council said “Families play a fundamental role in society. Supporting families is an important element in promoting and protecting human rights.”

“This support must be inclusive of all family compositions, including multigenerational and extended families, single parent households, LGBTIQ+ families, and indigenous kinship groups,” Australia’s representative said on behalf of several countries, mainly from Europe and the Americas, Israel, New Zealand, and East Timor.

Argentina, Brazil, Britain, Canada, Germany, Mexico, Spain, and the United States were among the signatories.

They called on countries and UN bodies “to continue to apply an inclusive lens to families, and to ensure that equality, non-discrimination, and the universality of human rights remain at the center of engagement in supporting families.”

Sexual orientation and gender identity issues will be at the heart of the 53rd Human Rights Council session, which started on Monday and runs until mid-July. Such issues have become contentious in several branches of the UN, as countries in the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and many African nations, plus Russia and China, are trying to roll back concepts and language which have been embedded in UN documents for at least a decade.

References to discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation have been under attack in the language of different UN agencies, from labor to health, while the UN Human Rights Council has been facing growing opposition to long-standing efforts to monitor for discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Resistance to the mainstreaming of gender equality and sexual orientation remains a concern even in the Philippines, where the proposed Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, Gender Expression, or Sex Characteristics (SOGIESC) bill, has been forwarded several times, but not yet approved by both the House and Senate, prompting concerned sectors to express concerns over its slow pace.

Hopefully our nation’s leaders will stand on the right side when it comes to this human rights issue that needs to be confronted sooner or later.*

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