A Typically Routine Resolution Over the “Olympic Truce” Becomes the Latest Battleground for LGBT Rights at the UN

An bi-annual UN General Assembly resolution has become the latest forum for countries seeking to roll back global LGBT rights.

Every two years, countries come together to pass a resolution calling for global truce to be respected during the Winter or Summer Olympic Games.  This is a symbolic and largely routine ritual — or at least it was until 2014, when Russia’s crackdown against LGBT communities sparked some international outrage during the Sochi Olympics. The following year, and ahead of the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, host country Brazil (a longtime champion of global LGBT rights) pushed to have the UN’s Olympic Truce Resolution explicitely cite something known as “Principle 6” of the Olympic Charter.”

Principle 6 is a non-discrimination ideal that states the following:

The enjoyment of the rights and freedoms set forth in this Olympic Charter shall be secured without discrimination of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, sexual orientation, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. (emphasis added.)

Brazil was successful, and in 2015 the biannual UN General Assembly Olympic Truce Resolution was adapted to include the following graf.

Welcoming the decision of the International Olympic Committee to reinforce fundamental principle 6 of the Olympic Charter, which states that the enjoyment of the rights and freedoms set forth in the Olympic Charter shall be secured for all, without discrimination of any kind,

Now it seems that some socially conservative countries, lead by Russia and Egypt, are pushing behind-the-scenes to have that specific reference to “Principle 6” removed from the next Olympic Truce Resolution for the forthcoming Winter Games in South Korea. According to OutRight International, a global LGBT rights organization, Russia and Egypt are leading this “stealth attack.”

“In the back rooms of the UN Headquarters over the last two weeks, Russia and Egypt have proposed an ultimatum: remove explicit reference to Principle 6, or they will not sign the Truce,” says the organization.

These moves have made what is typically a routine and pro-forma resolution a proxy in some countries’ long-standing efforts to push back against advances in gay rights in the UN system. It also comes at a time when anti-LGBT crackdowns are on the increase in these countries. In Egypt some 65 gay men have been arrested in crackdowns in recent weeks. In Russia there is an ongoing “gay purge,” in some parts of the country.

Meanwhile, at the UN, these countries and their regressive allies have been largely unsuccessful in stopping the steady integration of LGBT rights into the UN’s broader UN human rights work. Last year, for example, Russia and its allies were unable to block the UN human rights council from appointing the first-ever special rapporteur on sexual orientation and gender identity. Still, as this latest move shows, they are not done trying to slow progress on LGBT rights at the UN. A vote on the resolution is expected in the next few weeks.