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Homosexual activism is advancing on a number of fronts at the United Nations these days, including a call by one group to prohibit the media from publishing “discriminatory” content – which critics are calling an outright attack on the First Amendment right to a free press.

This, as well as other related controversies, are embroiling the U.N. as it heads toward the opening of the World Conference Against Racism scheduled for August 31 through September 7 in Durban, South Africa.

For instance, yesterday the U.N.’s AIDS conference closed amidst diplomatic tensions sparked by threats from “progressive” nations that insisted the conference document not connect the spread of AIDS to homosexual behavior.

Western nations objected when the Egyptian delegation attempted to insert into the document the pertinent factors that constitute the leading cause of the spread of the disease – namely, “homosexuality among men, prostitution and other forms of irresponsible sexual behavior.” Some Western nations balked at referring to homosexuality as “irresponsible sexual behavior.”

But the efforts at de-emphasizing any negatives associated with homosexuality took an unprecedented turn recently when the International Gay and Lesbian Association (IGLA) demanded that the U.N.’s World Conference on Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance (WCAR) adopt provisions that would prohibit media from broadcasting “content discriminatory to homosexuals.”

Although the IGLA does not have an official status at the United Nations, some of the demands made by the association are advanced by powerful non-governmental organizations (NGOs) which do enjoy official United Nations designations. IGLA representatives lobbied in Geneva during the preparatory meeting for the Conference on Racism.

The Conference on Racism includes a segment on the influence of the media. Draft provisions include this: “Developments in technology have had a profound impact on the role of the media by providing individuals and groups with new ways to communicate with each other. These developments have benefited societies in many ways, for example, in drawing attention to human rights abuses and in the field of human rights education. Regrettably, the Internet and other new forms of communication have also been used to disseminate messages of hatred and contempt for certain groups based on race, religion, nationality, ethnicity and gender.”

Media experts are wary of the questions that the U.N.’s Conference on Racism have raised about the role and obligation of the media. U.N. critics point to what they recognize as the “usual obfuscation” inherent in the language employed. Such critics note that the U.N. listed the following questions:

    How can the media be used more effectively to promote tolerance and respect?

    Are there best practices with regard to balancing of freedom of expression with the use of new technologies, such as the Internet, to
    promote racist beliefs and attitudes?

    How can freedom of the press best be balanced with the duty not to incite racial hatred?

    How can the U.N. human rights system assist in the process of balancing competing rights?

These questions from the U.N. draft use the word “balance,” say critics, as a euphemism for censorship of the media.

Homosexual activists working through IGLA want the language of the U.N. conference document to specifically restrict “all forms of discrimination that negatively affect human individuality.” The IGLA held a “satellite meeting” in preparation for the upcoming racism conference. The “declaration” produced by IGLA at Quito, Ecuador, in March applauded the conference as the first U.N. world conference to include “related forms of intolerance.”

Related forms of intolerance?

Some legal scholars find the phrase “related forms of intolerance” to be so broad as to be interpreted in the future as including any new group that seeks U.N. protection under these standards, if adopted.

“We cannot rule out pedophiles as ‘related intolerance’ in the future,” said one attorney who requested anonymity. (Many experts who lobby at the U.N. fear being quoted as it may endanger their continued work at U.N. conferences.)

“Now,” remarked one New York-based journalist, “the gay lobby is on the brink of bagging two for one — they have linked ‘homophobia’ to racism, and they have demanded the U.N. muzzle the media to ensure their ‘rights’ to be free from ‘discrimination.’” A religious leader who declined to be named raised the question of religious freedom.

“If it becomes an infringement of a homosexual person’s ‘rights’ to speak out about homosexuality as an offense against nature and God, then how is religious freedom protected?”

Others, however, note that prominent media leaders have favored some of the proposed provisions.

Bill Roedy, president of MTV Networks International and chairman of the Global Business Council – a business booster group that supports United Nations initiatives – said, “MTV is working hard to break the wall of silence on HIV and AIDS by broadcasting programs that talk to our audience around the world … to break the stigma and discrimination associated with HIV and AIDS.” MTV and the United Nations have collaborated to set up a website on racism, discrimination and tolerance issues in preparation for the WCAR. (See websites on the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and the
Fight for your rights campaign. )

Homosexuals whose lifestyle is at odds with their inherited religious beliefs are also challenging that heritage from within. The Muslim homosexual activist group called al-Fatiha has been set up to help homosexual followers of Islam to reconcile their sexuality with their religion. Homosexuality is forbidden in Muslim cultures; in certain Islamic countries it is regarded as a criminal activity punishable by death.

Muslim leader Ajaf Shaikh is firm: “… the Muslim culture and religion is totally against this kind of activity. And Muslim religion don’t allow these kind of activities.” Reconciling homosexual lifestyles with inherited religion is a struggle that homosexual men and women claim must be fought, including at the international level.

Traditional religious leaders have resisted. Pope John Paul II addressed some pointed remarks to the United Nations’ AIDS conference that ended yesterday. He said “[The] frightening spread of AIDS” has plagued a world “characterized by a serious crisis of values.” The
pope exhorted the international community not to ignore its “moral responsibility” to address the disease. His remarks, though diplomatically worded, were a pointed call for a traditional moral view of human sexuality which would eradicate the disease through chastity and marital fidelity.

The Black Radical Congress, however, in a statement prepared for WCAR has said, “What we have not seen is any significant decline in the scourge of racism and its corrosive effects on the lives of millions of people of color around the world, nor any pronounced slippage in xenophobia, nor any reduction in heterosexual hatred of other sexual orientations, nor any abatement of religious intolerance … The Black Radical Congress strongly supports the WCAR.”

U.N. observers have pointed out that the five themes that WCAR lists as its major issues are ominous. The themes are: Sources, causes and manifestations of intolerance; victims of intolerance; measures of
prevention, education and protection against intolerance at the national, regional and international level; effective remedies, recourses and compensation; and strategies to achieve equality for victims of racism and intolerance, including enhancement of the U.N. and other
international mechanisms in combating intolerance.

Observers critical of the U.N.’s sweeping conferences, that launch new standards into international and customary law, point out that the attempt by the IGLA lobby to muzzle the media as part of a world standard against “intolerance” would suit many substructures within the U.N. system.

“Look,” commented one legal scholar, “just look at that fifth provision in the five themes listed for WCAR. What do you think ‘enhancement of the U.N. and other international mechanisms’ means? We are talking media censorship, sure, but also coercive means that bring once-sovereign nations to heel.”

One of those mechanisms may be to control media imagery about homosexuality. The IGLA declaration demands: “To call upon the communication agencies, the media and related systems to reaffirm their democratic and ethical principles and their social function as opinion leaders, by opening up their areas of action to sensitize society and to include the expressions and symbolic representations of diversity; to recognize discriminated sectors’ right to communication; and to eradicate the broadcasting of products with discriminatory contents.”


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Related story:

Inside homosexual journalists’ conference

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