The main global grouping of gays and lesbians, ILGA, has been formally recognized by the United Nations against strong opposition from African and Islamic countries, according to a United Nations report issued on Tuesday.
Human rights activists said the move, by the world body’s Economic and Social Council or ECOSOC, marks a major breakthrough for sexual minorities at the UN at a time when they are under increasing pressure in some developing countries.
In a vote overturning the stand of a New York-based UN committee, ECOSOC approved the granting of consultative status to ILGA -- which has been seeking admission as a recognized non- governmental organization (NGO) for over a decade.
Consultative status means ILGA -- the International Gay and Lesbian Association which says it has 670 member groups in over 110 countries -- can attend UN meetings, speak, and provide information to UN bodies on treatment of gays.
It will also be able to take part in meetings of the Geneva- based Human Rights Council, where anti-gay sentiment is strong but which last month narrowly passed the first-ever UN resolution on violence against homosexuals.
The overwhelming Monday vote, at a summer session of the 54 -member ECOSOC, was hailed by the United States and Belgium as rejecting what they called prejudice and discrimination against gays shown by the smaller NGO committee in New York.
A total of 29 countries -- mainly European and Latin American but also including India, South Korea, Japan and Mongolia -- voted to admit ILGA, while 14 -- all African and Islamic countries plus Russia and China -- were against.
There were five abstentions.
Belgium told ECOSOC it was delighted by the outcome since ILGA would in future be able to contribute to the UN system “information about violations of human rights of lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender people throughout the world.”
And the United States said the NGO was “committed to respect for universal human rights and freedoms.” But Egypt argued that ILGA had not provided answers to queries on whether some of its members had been involved in pedophilia.
Other NGOs, like the European Humanist Federation which has long sought UN recognition, say the 19-member New York committee, which vets applications and makes recommendations to ECOSOC, fends off groups the majority dislike.
Two others -- a democracy-advocating body working mainly in Latin America and a Syrian human rights group based in Paris -- were admitted at the ECOSOC session on Monday also against the recommendation of the committee.
Speaking for the European Union, Poland complained that some members of the NGO committee -- which currently includes Cuba, Pakistan, Russia and China -- opposed recognizing NGOs critical of their human rights record or because of the causes they espoused.