Quote of the week

[Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro] possesses, however, few of his predecessor’s resources, lacking not just oil revenue but Chávez’s surplus of charisma, humour and political skill. Maduro, unable to end the crisis, has increasingly sided with the privileged classes against the masses; his security forces are regularly dispatched into barrios to repress militants under the guise of fighting crime. Having lost its majority in Congress, the government, fearing it can’t win at the polls the way Chávez did, cancelled gubernatorial elections that had been set for December last year (though they now appear to be on again). Maduro has convened an assembly to write a new constitution, supposedly with the objective of institutionalising the power of social movements, though it is unlikely to lessen the country’s polarisation.

Greg Grandin
London Review of Books
23 November 2010

DA: SA’s UN vote a setback for advancement of gay rights

DA: United Nations resolution: South Africa vote is a setback for advancement of LGBT rights

The Democratic Alliance (DA) is stunned that South Africa’s United Nations delegation has voted to remove reference to sexual orientation from a United Nations resolution on extrajudicial killings (see Reuters report).

Disappointingly, 79 states voted to remove reference to sexual orientation from the resolution. Amongst them were six states which still carry the death penalty for consensual sexual acts between adults of the same sex – Iran, Nigeria, Yemen, the United Arab Emirates, Sudan and Saudi Arabia.

Others who voted for the amendment include Uganda, Saudi Arabia, Zimbabwe, Uzbekistan, Syria, Belize, Libya, Tanzania, Comoros, Lebanon, Ethiopia, Morocco, Burundi, Eritrea, Angola, Kenya, Cameroon, Algeria, Tunisia, Kuwait, Ghana, Liberia, Senegal, Guyana, Jamaica, Sierra Leone, Malawi and Malaysia.

In all of these states, homosexual acts are illegal, and punishments vary from public floggings to hefty, and in some case life, sentences.

The amendment to this resolution, which was adopted this last week, passed by just nine votes. 70 more progressively minded states voted against the amendment.

South Africa’s UN representative offered a ridiculous explanation for our vote, saying – according to the official UN minutes – that international law is insufficiently clear on the definition of sexual orientation.

The Minister of International Relations would do well to explain why this ‘concern’ did not prevent 70 other states from voting against the amendment.

With neighbouring countries like Lesotho, Namibia, Botswana and Mozambique joining South Africa in voting in favour of this amendment, it is quite conceivable that, had South Africa adopted a more principled stance, we could have influenced enough other states in the region to take up the same position, and thus change the outcome of the final vote.

Before becoming president, Jacob Zuma repeatedly demonstrated severe insensitivity to the rights of gay and lesbian South Aricans. On one occasion, he stated: “When I was growing up, an ungqingili (homosexual) would not have stood in front of me. I would knock him out.”

More recently, the president appointed Jon Qwelane, an outspoken homophobe, as Ambassador to Uganda.

Now, we are voting at the UN to weaken the international community’s response to extrajudicial killings based on sexual orientation.

South Africa should be leading the way in promoting LGBT rights on the African continent, and further afield. Our foreign policy should set an example. Instead, we are voting with states that publically flog and execute their own citizens.

There is absolutely clear evidence that sexual orientation has been a motive for many extrajudicial killings, and that the inclusion of reference to sexual orientation in this resolution was therefore appropriate and necessary.

The Zuma administration cannot remain silent on this issue, and I will write to the Minister of International Relations today on this matter, and submit parliamentary questions to her department at the next opportunity to do so.

Statement issued by Kenneth Mubu MP, Democratic Alliance Shadow Minister of International Relations, November 19 2010

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