India votes against gay rights for UN employees

India supported a Russian-drafted resolution that opposed benefits for same-sex partners of UN staff, but the resolution failed to pass in the General Assembly committee. The move comes in the wake of a growing debate in the country about decriminalising gay sex.

New Delhi, however, justified its move to vote in favour of the resolution saying it was against the unilateral decision of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to change the system of entitlements without consulting member countries. Ministry of External Affairs official spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin on Wednesday said that the UNSG had “on its own accord” changed the system without consultation.

The Fifth Committee of the General Assembly, which deals with administrative and budgetary issues, voted against the Russian proposal in New York Tuesday that aimed at stopping the UN from offering marital benefits to its employees with same-sex spouses. Eighty nations voted against denying these benefits.

The resolution would have had the Secretary-General withdraw his policy laying out the current rules for the personal status of staff members determining their benefits and entitlements. The policy made by Ban last summer had recognised same-sex marriages of all UN staffers, allowing them to receive UN benefits.

India, along with China, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and UAE voted in favour of the draft resolution, which had 37 abstentions.

Same-sex relations are a criminal offence in India after the Supreme Court had in 2013 overturned a Delhi High Court judgement that decriminalised gay sex in 2011.

Ban has been a strong proponent of equal rights for the LGBT community. Previously, a staff member’s marital status was determined by the laws applicable in his or her nationality.

The US led the opposition to Moscow’s proposal, with its envoy to the UN telling the committee that the vote preserves the Secretary-General’s administrative prerogatives under the UN Charter, allowing the UN to determine how it administers staff benefits.

Russia’s deputy ambassador Petr Iliichev stressed that his country was not challenging the role of the Secretary-General, but the changes must be made in consultation with member states.

Saudi Arabia’s representative said he voted in favour of the draft decision on moral grounds as the Kingdom held that same-sex marriage was immoral.

by Express News Service – With PTI inputs from New York
Source – The Indian Express