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UN-reconciliable differences

28 December 2008

Albania, Andorra, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chile, Colombia, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Estonia, Finland, France, Gabon, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guinea-Bissau, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Mauritius, Mexico, Montenegro, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Paraguay, Poland, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, Sao Tome and Principe, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Timor-Leste, United Kingdom, Uruguay, and Venezuela all signed a resolution last week at the United Nations.

Via  Obsidian Wings:

In all, 66 of the U.N.’s 192 member countries signed the nonbinding declaration — which backers called a historic step to push the General Assembly to deal more forthrightly with any-gay discrimination. More than 70 U.N. members outlaw homosexuality, and in several of them homosexual acts can be punished by execution.

Co-sponsored by France and the Netherlands, the declaration was signed by all 27 European Union members, as well as Japan, Australia, Mexico and three dozen other countries. There was broad opposition from Muslim nations, and the United States refused to sign, indicating that some parts of the declaration raised legal questions that needed further review.

While a handful of non-English speaking nations  in the Americas — Dominican Republic, Haiti, the CAFTA nations (El Salvador, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras and Panama) and Suriname (20% Muslim) — also voted against the resolution, the others were all former British colonies.

Nergui Manalsuren of IPS News (reposted by argues that outside the Muslim world, most criminal laws regarding sodomy are holdovers from 19th century British imperial legal codes

…more than half of the world’s remaining “sodomy laws” derive from a single law on homosexual conduct that British colonial rulers imposed on India in 1860.

The law, known as Section 377 under the Indian penal code, was designed to set standards of behavior, both to “reform” the colonized and to protect the colonizers against “moral lapses”.

It was the first colonial “sodomy law” integrated into a penal code, and it became a model for countries across Asia, the Pacific Islands and Africa — almost everywhere the British imperial flag flew…

This might explain those Caribbean nations that were British colonies at least a hundred years AFTER 1860, but the United States had been founded four score and four years prior to Section 377, as “a new nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”

The British legal code doesn’t completely explain it, though the early settlement by English Puritans (who assumed the state should enforce personal behavior) might.   But, then too, the United States seems to interpret that “all men” very narrowly.  Two other U.N. Resolutions (both non-binding) called for a right to food, and for strengthening the existing Convention on the Rights of the Child  (which the U.S. refused to ratify) were passed, almost unanimously — in both resolution votes, the United States was the sole “No” vote:

…the representative of the United States said he was unable to support the text because he believed the attainment of the right to adequate food was a goal that should be realized progressively.  In his view, the draft contained inaccurate textual descriptions of underlying rights.

The Committee also approved a draft resolution on the rights of the child by a vote of 180 in favour to one against ( United States), with no abstentions.  Among other things, that omnibus text would call upon States to create an environment conducive to the well-being of all children, including by strengthening international cooperation in regard to the eradication of poverty, the right to education, the right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health, and the right to food.

This isn’t a “throw a shoe at Bush post”… the U.S. has been out of step with the rest of the world on a number of issues, and I don’t see that changing in January with a new Administration. I’ve tried to keep the focus on Mexico and Mexican issues, and much as I appreciate Mexican weirdness and local color, a lot of what I write is just the normal doings of a “normal” country.  I’ve had on more than one occasion to explain that just because something is the norm in the United States, but not in Mexico, does not mean the Mexican way is uniquely Mexican.

It’s just next to a profoundly inexplicable one.

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