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UN to Name World's First 'Special LGBT Independent Expert'

United Nations

The global human rights organization sets a new precedent in the fight to end violence against LGBTQ people around the world.

In a resolution passed yesterday with 23 states in favor, 18 against, and six abstaining, the United Nations Human Rights Council voted to establish the position of an independent expert whose express and specific goal will be to identify, document and combat homophobia and violence against LGBTQ people across the globe.

The Advocate reports that the initiative was led by a group of Latin American member countries of the U.N.'s 47-member Human Rights Council, including Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Chile and Mexico.

More than 620 non-governmental organizations from 151 countries on every continent signed a joint statement of support, declaring:

"It is time to move beyond one-off initiatives and piecemeal measures. ... The establishment of a dedicated protection mechanism to address [sexual orientation and gender identity]-related human rights violations is a necessary step towards urgently addressing the serious abuses on these grounds in every region of the world."

For some, in countries where being gay is still a crime or even punishable by death, these words may in fact be the difference between life and death. Currently, 73 countries still criminalize same-sex relationships, and in as many as 10 countries, it can still be considered a capital offense.

Once appointed, the envoy's responsibilities will include visits to countries where the human rights of LGBTQ individuals or communities may be at risk, connecting with human rights advocates on site, diplomatic engagement with officials, and decision-making on improvements and reform.

The UN's LGBTQ expert will also be in charge of collecting evidence and data on human rights violations. The independent expert will act as a bridge between the Human Rights Council in Geneva and the broader UN system.

The expert will help guarantee that LGBTQ rights remain a priority in the international domain, politically and otherwise.

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Dan Heching