Over the years, I have devoted much ink to exposing South Africa’s pro totalitarian behavior at the UN. Although human rights have often been declared by the ANC to be a cornerstone of their foreign policy, their representatives hardly ever miss an opportunity to side with dictators and tyrants against the free world. Sadly last week’s preparatory meeting for the infamous UN Durban 2 review conference on racism was not an exception. This time it was the issue of gay rights.
UN Watch, the best source for information for all things related to the United Nations but in particular the Durban 2 preparatory proceedings, is reporting that discrimination based on sexual orientation has been removed from the upcoming conference daft declaration with the support of South Africa. The original proposal by Western states in the draft text (par. 69) was to condemn ‘all forms of discrimination and all other human rights violations based on sexual orientation.’ Not so controversial, one would think, for a conference ostensibly about discrimination and intolerance, as UNWATCH puts it.
The Czech Republic on behalf of the E.U., with the support of New Zealand, the United States, Colombia, Chili on behalf of the South American states, the Netherlands, Argentina and a few others, took the floor in support. But they were in the minority. Realising this and seeking a compromise solution the United Kingdom proposed to water down the language as follows: “Recognizes that experiences of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and related intolerance are aggravated and intersect with discrimination on grounds including sexual orientation and gender identity, and condemns all forms of discrimination and all other human rights violations based on these grounds.”
The inclusion of the words “discrimination on grounds including sexual orientation” however still made the paragraph unadoptable and unacceptable for the majority of member states at the U.N. These included South Africa on behalf of the African Group, China, Egypt, Nigeria, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Botswana, Iran, Algeria, and Syria.
The South African representative argued: ‘Sexual orientation and discrimination. . . goes beyond the framework of the (2001) Durban Declaration.’ According to our section 9(3) of our much praised constitution grounds for discrimination include ‘ race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language and birth’. How can the South African government support an international process that would seek to limit the scope of our bill of rights? Not only is it a moral disgrace but it is extremely worrying development for our democracy. It calls into question the ANC’s continued commitment to our constitutional order.
That the South African government in the build up to Durban 2 has consistently broken its promise to the Jewish community and gone along with the singling out of Israel and only Israel as part of this global ‘anti-racism’ process does not surprise me. I have come to expect that from a government whose deputy foreign minister engages in classic anti-Jewish libels. But for South Africa one of the most liberal societies in the world on issues of gay rights to side with countries like Iran and Egypt is absurd. Civil society stood by the Jewish community when Fatima Hajaig made her anti-Semitic comments. I think we have an obligation to stand by the gay community in this situation. No matter what our personal positions we should rally with the rest of civil society to force the government to recommit to the values enshrined in our constitution and pull out of this Orwellian circus that is Durban 2.