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United Nations General Assembly
AIDS Session Bans Gays

Muslim States: Discussing Homosexuality is a Cultural Insult

Human Rights Roundtable Rejects IGLHRC Representative

Compiled By GayToday

New York, New York--Karyn Kaplan, a staff member at the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), has been banned from appearing at the official Human Rights Round Table at the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on HIV/AIDS.

IGLHRC was the only gay and lesbian civil society organization invited to speak at the Round Table. According to a U.N. AIDS representative, certain governments have objected to the presence of an NGO representing gays and lesbians.

Eleven nations, led by Pakistan, Egypt, Sudan Malaysia and Libya voted mostly anonymously Friday to prevent the seating of the San Francisco-based human rights organization.

A motion which the United States did not co-sponsor, was made to reinstate the group. Backed by the European Union, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Iceland, Lichtenstein, Andorra and others, the session was, nevertheless, denied a quorum by Muslim nations. Delegates disagreed over what some considered the usage of improper language because of unambiguous references to prostitutes and intravenous drug users, groups that must be reached about AIDS prevention in every nation but about which many Muslim nations are in denial.

Though the United States made no effort to fight back the IGLHRC's dismissal, due to the Bush administration's fear of being accused by religious conservatives for being "soft on homosexuality", U.S. spokeswoman Alyson Grunder said: "We do support the group and if it comes to a vote we support their participation in the roundtable."

Kaplan's banning flies in the face of the UNAIDS 2000 report, which identified sexual minorities as "vulnerable populations" at high risk for contracting HIV/AIDS.

Said Kaplan:

"Barring a gay human rights group from a U.N. gathering on AIDS and human rights is a travesty of the whole purpose of these meetings. We need real solutions for this epidemic, and that starts with talking about the people who need help. The countries that want to keep us out persecute gay people and help foster the stigma that allows AIDS to spread."

Sweden's Carina Martensson said:

"We cannot accept this type of procedure whereby organizations are not allowed to add their points of view. This is even more strengthened after hearing what we have heard today."

Ross Hynes, Canada's senior envoy to the U.N., told the assembly:

"The time when it might have been considered acceptable for groups or organizations to deny important rights or privileges on the basis of a system of anonymous, arbitrary blackballing is happily from a long-gone era."

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Related Sites:
United Nations AIDS Organization

International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission

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Many of the nations opposing IGLHRC's participation at the Round Table have a record of State persecution against sexual minorities.

Last month, IGLHRC and Amnesty International accused Egypt of detaining more than 50 men because they are suspected homosexuals.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch said:

"Pretending these groups don't exist, or reinforcing discrimination against them, will only accelerate the spread of the epidemic by pushing them further underground and out of reach of the services they desperately need to contain the disease."

"There can be no meaningful civil society participation at this meeting," added Kaplan, "when vulnerable groups are left out."

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