Volume 13, Number 30
July 8, 2010
By Susan Yoshihara, Ph.D.
NEW YORK, July 8 (C-FAM) At the United Nations (UN) last month, several U.S. representatives attacked Egypt for asking for further investigation into a homosexual advocacy organization which has applied for special consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council. These attacks culminated in a sharp rebuke delivered last week by U.S. ambassador Susan Rice. The actions seem to contravene President Obama’s strategy of engaging Egypt and other Muslim societies in key foreign policy aims such as Middle East peace.
At a UN committee meeting, three American representatives rose in protest of an Egyptian-led group of nations seeking further investigation of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC). One U.S. representative attacked Egypt so aggressively that the Egyptian delegate called a point of order on the matter. The committee is in charge of deciding which organizations are granted consultative status to the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).
Ambassador Rice then announced, “The United States Mission to the UN is, among other efforts, working to reverse an attempt by some members of the NGO [Non-Governmental Organization] Committee of the Economic and Social Council to deny UN consultative status to the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission.” The U.S. is planning to circumvent Egypt and the committee by bringing the matter to a vote at the upcoming ECOSOC meeting.
Rice used the occasion of the Obama administration’s celebration of “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month” to make the announcement. Rice further asserted that, “In some nations, sexual orientation is considered a crime, and punished with unspeakable violence and humiliation.” However, “sexual orientation” is generally not criminalized, and Rice did not refer to specific cases. Homosexual sex or “sodomy” is banned in nearly half of all UN member states.
Similarly, Rice asserted that “Public pride is sometimes met with brutal, state-sanctioned beatings and arrests.” While Rice did not back up the claim or define “public pride,” the remark seems to be a reference to “Gay Pride” rallies, which according to IGLHRC include “marches, demonstrations and protests” to promote homosexual rights. The US ambassador to Bulgaria, James Warlick, came under fire in June for promoting a demonstration in Sofia, over the objections of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church and pro-family groups.
While campaigning against Egypt at ECOSOC, Rice is seeking to enlist Egyptian support elsewhere at the UN. In April, Rice told reporters that Egypt was essential to U.S. aims during the “complicated and difficult” issue of the Middle East during the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference. And last year Rice expressed “deep appreciation to President Mubarak and the Government of Egypt for their persistence in promoting a durable ceasefire in Gaza and southern Israel and in hosting Palestinian reconciliation talks.” The U.S. Congress appropriated $250 million in aid to Egypt in 2010. The aid package gives the Mubarak government veto power on which NGOs receive the U.S. funds.
President Obama’s high profile U.S.-Muslim relations strategy, launched in June 2009 at Cairo University, seeks closer relationships with Muslim societies in order to deal successfully with ongoing U.S. military operations, Middle East peace, and the Iran nuclear crisis, as well as to promote democracy, religious freedom, and women’s rights in the region.
Sexual orientation was not mentioned in the president’s hour-long Cairo speech. It is unclear whether Rice’s speech represented a shift in Obama’s policy.