Groups advocating for gay and transgender rights have been banned from an upcoming meeting at the UN following the intervention of a coalition of Muslim states.
The conference will take place from June 8 to June 10 and aims to end the international AIDs epidemic by 2030.
The Organization of Islamic Cooperation, a coalition of 57 Muslim countries, requested the ban in a letter submitted by Egypt. The UN then banned 11 groups which struggle for LGBT rights including African Men for Sexual Health and Rights, Ishtar Men Who Have Sex With Men, Eurasian Coalition on Male Health, the Asia Pacific Transgender Network and other groups from Guyana, Jamaica, Peru and Ukraine from attending the conference.
Although no reason for the ban was given, it is widely accepted that the organizations were banned because of their work on LGBT rights.
Some of the prominent countries in the OIC have laws in place banning homosexuality, most notably Saudi Arabia and Iran, where homosexuality can carry the death penalty. In other places such as Pakistan, it can carry a fine or imprisonment.
It is important to note that Pakistan’s law outlawing homosexuality was originally written by the British colonial administrator Lord Macaulay in 1860. No politician has thought to change this law since.
Officials from the United States, the EU and Canada have written to the president of the UN General Assembly to criticize the ban.
“The movement to block the participation of NGOs on spurious or hidden grounds is becoming epidemic and severely damages the credibility of the UN," U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power said in a letter.
"Given that transgender people are 49 times more likely to be living with HIV than the general population, their exclusion from the high-level meeting will only impede global progress in combating the HIV/Aids pandemic,” the lteter continued.
This move at the UN seems to be part and parcel of moves to restrict the rights of LGBT people domestically by countries in the OIC. Yet, religious objections to homosexuality cannot be allowed to impede efforts to tackle a public health crisis of the magnitude of AIDs.
"It is outrageous that the OIC has blocked the participation of LGBT groups from the high level UN meeting on AIDS when members of the trans and gay community are disproportionately affected by it," counter-extremism activist Sohail Ahmed told Clarion Project. "This just serves to show the deep-rooted homophobia within some Islamic communities."
By contrast, the first Muslim mayor of a major western city, newly-elected mayor if London Sadiq Khan, flew the gay pride flag from city hall in London on Tuesday to mark the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia & Biphobia.