The United Nations Human Rights Council voted on a resolution to appoint an independent expert on sexual orientation and gender identity on Thursday.

This is the first time such a post has been created.

The role of the expert will be to assess the implementation of international laws and write annual reports on the violence and discrimination suffered by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex (LGBTI) people in all countries around the world, including India.

The resolution was tabled by seven Latin American countries, including Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Mexico. India abstained from voting on the resolution, while Russia, Saudi Arabia and Bangladesh, among others, opposed it.

The candidate for the post of the independent expert will be decided after the September session of the Human Rights Council.

Ian Duddy, a UK diplomat working on international affairs at the United Nations tweeted, “Great news as #UN adopts its first ever mandate to address discrimination & violence against #LGBT persons. #HRC32"

“The creation of this independent expert position is a very positive and historic step in protecting LGBT people worldwide. What is also striking is the broad coalition, led by Mexico, which championed the resolution through the Human Rights Council. This a timely signal for the LGBTI community," Fabrice Houdart, human rights officer, Office of the High Commission for Human Rights, told Mint.

Thursday’s resolution saw much debate and was passed with seven amendments, including one “Underlining the fundamental importance of respecting domestic debates at the national level on matters associated with historical, cultural, social and religious sensitivities."

Mexican ambassador Jorge Lomonaco brought up the recent Orlando attack, in which 49 persons were killed in a nightclub shootout in the US, and said that countries which condemned the attack but opposed international efforts to fight homophobia were being hypocritical. Russia, however, claimed that appointing an independent expert would be a waste of UN resources, and that Russia would not cooperate with the expert who is appointed.

A 2015 UN report on violence faced by LGBTI persons around the globe found that there was “no dedicated human rights mechanism at the international level that has a systematic and comprehensive approach to the human rights situation of LGBT and intersex persons."

In India, Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) criminalizes same sex intercourse between consenting adults. The constitutional validity of the law has been challenged by Naz Foundation, an NGO which works for persons living with HIV/AIDS, and a group of other petitioners including a coalition of rights groups called Voices Against 377, parents of LGBT persons and mental health professionals. The case is pending before the constitutional bench of the Supreme Court. On Wednesday, a group of LGB persons, including Sangeet Natak Akademi awardee Navtej Singh Johar, his partner of 25 years journalist Sunil Mehra, and renowned chef Ritu Dalmia, moved the Supreme Court to quash Section 377.

Although there haven’t been many arrests made under the section, the law is used to harass, threaten and assault members of the LGBTI communities, who do not have the right to marry, co-own property or adopt children with their partners.

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