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US, EU Back Uganda’s Motion to Delete LGBT From ILO Convention

Members of the Lesbians, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ); which were listed as a vulnerable group on  Agenda Items of the 108th International Labour Conference, have been removed from the agenda.

The Conference, which kicked off on June 2019 is the adoption of an International Labour Standard on ending violence and harassment in the world of work.

The workers’ rights item was carried forward from the 107th International Labour Conference that was held last year.

This item had been placed on the agenda on grounds that there is no international labour standard on addressing violence and harassment yet violence and harassment is prevalent in the world of work and costs the global economy millions of dollars in health care, court cases, lost wages and sick pay.

One of the contentious issues in the discussions however, has been whether member states should adopt laws, regulations and policies ensuring the right to equality and non-discrimination for all workers, including the LGBTQ.

The Africa Group opposed this provision.

Accordingly, Mr. Pius Bigirimana, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development in his capacity as Chief Negotiator for Africa, moved a motion to delete the list of vulnerable groups including the LGBTQ from the text of the Convention.

In the spirit of consensus, the motion to delete a list of vulnerable groups was seconded by the United States, European Union and Canada among others.

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Mr. Bigirimana argued that because of cultural relativism, there is no common position on homosexuals as a vulnerable group across the world. Mr. Bigirimana accordingly advised that the Convention should provide for member states to define by national legislation vulnerable groups or groups in situations of vulnerability that are disproportionately affected by violence and harassment in the world.

Consequently, the motion to delete the list of vulnerable groups including homosexuals from the text of the draft international labour standard on violence and harassment in the world of work was adopted by overwhelming majority.

This was a stark departure from the discussions last year when adoption of the provision including LGBT among vulnerable groups was unceremoniously halted by a walk out by the Africa Group led by Uganda.

Following the deletion of the list of vulnerable groups, the European Union and the United States of America co-sponsored a motion to provide that vulnerable groups and groups in situations of vulnerability should be interpreted at national level in accordance with applicable international labour standards and international human rights.

Speaking from Geneva, Switzerland, Mr. Bigirimana expressed confidence that a landmark legal instrument against violence and harassment in the world of work will be adopted and called upon all Ugandans to join hands in ending violence and harassment in the world of work.

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