United Nations headquarters – Photo: Fernanda LeMarie, Cancilleria de Ecuador, via Wikimedia.
The United Nations’ human rights chief is fighting back against claims that LGBTQ rights are part of a “Western agenda.”
Speaking during The Economist‘s Pride and Prejudice conference in London on Thursday, Andrew Gilmour, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, said that LGBTQ rights have made “tremendous progress over the past 10-15 years” in the West, but are “suffering” in many parts of the world. “There is a big pushback, partly in reaction to success in the West,” he said.
Gilmour noted that the United Nations is trying to “push back against discrimination,” but is battling attempts to undermine human rights efforts.
“It’s always easy to say, ‘The human rights agenda is a Western agenda,’ which it isn’t,” he said, “[but] some governments are very keen to propagate that myth.”
Gilmour said that certain nations are framing the “LGBTQ agenda” as an unwelcomed interjection into their way of life.
“Just last week I was in central Asia where they’re not remotely friendly to the LGBTQ agenda,” he said. “The questions came more from the old guard and the professors: ‘Aren’t human rights a Western agenda.’ I know that precisely what they were thinking about is the LBGTQ issue. My response there was that we are not imposing or seeking to push a pro-LGBTQ agenda.”
He added: “That narrative is out there, but my line is that we’re not trying to impose a gay agenda. What we do oppose is discrimination.”
One of the worst examples of discrimination that Gilmour experienced was in Tajikistan in Central Asia.
“Tajikistan set up a register of suspected gay [people] that the police then used to go and blackmail,” he said. “There’s extortion and beatings and it’s extremely unpleasant.”
Another is Uganda, where supporting the rights of LGBTQ people is seen as detrimental to businesses.
“Uganda, as many people know, the government is one of the most hostile to LGBTQ rights,” Gilmour said. “We had a meeting there. A lot of the world’s biggest companies are in Kampala, but not one company dared show up. I take on board that you’ve got to be careful and protect your staff, but there’s taking caution too far, frankly.”
A recent study by the Williams Institute found that while acceptance of LGBTQ people has increased globally since 1980, the world is also more polarized in its acceptance than ever before, with 46 countries now less accepting of LGBTQ people than they were in 1980.