U.N. Revokes Consultative Status of International Lesbian and Gay Association

The United Nations Economic and Social Council revoked the consultative status granted the International Lesbian and Gay Association on grounds that some of its members were affiliated with pedophile groups. The association has yet to be reinstated.

Summary of Event

The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) is the main United Nations body responsible for human rights. ECOSOC initiates studies, makes recommendations, and organizes international conferences. As part of its mandate, ECOSOC may grant consultative status to nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). This status gives NGOs the ability to participate as observers in ECOSOC meetings on human rights as well as the opportunity to submit written statements to the council on various issues. [kw]U.N. Revokes Consultative Status of International Lesbian and Gay Association (Sept. 16, 1994)
[kw]International Lesbian and Gay Association, U.N. Revokes Consultative Status of (Sept. 16, 1994)
[kw]Lesbian and Gay Association, U.N. Revokes Consultative Status of International (Sept. 16, 1994)
[kw]Gay Association, U.N. Revokes Consultative Status of International Lesbian and (Sept. 16, 1994)
International Lesbian and Gay Association
Lesbian and Gay Association, International
United Nations;and GLBT organizations[GLBT organizations]
[c]Government and politics;Sept. 16, 1994: U.N. Revokes Consultative Status of International Lesbian and Gay Association[2400]
[c]Organizations and institutions;Sept. 16, 1994: U.N. Revokes Consultative Status of International Lesbian and Gay Association[2400]
[c]Civil rights;Sept. 16, 1994: U.N. Revokes Consultative Status of International Lesbian and Gay Association[2400]
Helms, Jesse

The International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA) was founded in 1978 as a worldwide federation of gay and lesbian groups dedicated to fighting discrimination against sexual minorities. Since its foundation, ILGA, with administrative offices in Brussels, Belgium, has led successful campaigns to convince Amnesty International to include lesbians and gays in its mandate and to persuade the World Health Organization to eliminate “homosexuality” from its list of diseases and disorders.

Given the importance of the human rights work conducted by ECOSOC, ILGA attempted to gain consultative status with the United Nations body in 1991. The application was deferred for two years in the face of opposition from several nations. In July, 1993, the NGO committee of ECOSOC approved ILGA’s application, but the decision still had to go to the full ECOSOC council. On July 30, 1993, ILGA finally won accreditation to ECOSOC. Only four countries voted against ILGA’s application: Syria, Malaysia, Swaziland, and Togo.

In October, 1993, Lambda Report, an antigay publication in the United States, alerted the U.S. media that the North American Man/Boy Love Association North American Man/Boy Love Association
Man/Boy Love Association, North American[Man Boy] (NAMBLA) was an ILGA member. The United States threatened to seek the revocation of ILGA’s consultative status unless ILGA expelled NAMBLA and any other pedophile group. Concerned about losing its consultative status, ILGA decided to comply with U.S. demands. At its Annual World Conference held in New York City in June, 1994, ILGA expelled three pedophile groups: NAMBLA, Project Truth/Free Will, Project Truth/Free Will[Project Truth Free Will] and Vereniging Martijn. Vereniging Martijn

Despite ILGA’s attempts to distance itself from pedophilia, the United States pushed ECOSOC to suspend ILGA’s status, claiming that the organization’s purge did not go far enough. Citing one member organization, the Munich-based Verein für Sexuelle Gleichberechtigung Verein für Sexuelle Gleichberechtigung
Sexuelle Gleichberechtigung, Verein für (VSG), as supporting pedophilia, conservative Republican U.S. senator Jesse Helms amended a congressional bill making U.S. funding of the United Nations contingent on the United Nations refusing to grant status to any organization that condones pedophilia. In applying the congressional prohibition, the United States threatened to cut off $118 million a year in U.N. funding unless VSG, or ILGA, got the boot. ILGA announced that the U.S. request that it prove that there were no ILGA members with ties to pedophilia was no longer acceptable. ECOSOC suspended ILGA on September 16, 1994.


In 1993, significant gains had been made in many Western industrialized countries, but those gains benefited only a small fraction of lesbians and gays worldwide. In many countries, homosexuality was still diagnosed as a mental disease, penalized as a crime, and condemned as a sin. Some states continued to imprison and execute individuals for their homosexuality. Even when not criminalized, gays and lesbians were provided with little protection from harassment and persecution. Sexual minorities were also severely restricted in exercising freedom of expression and freedom of assembly.

The U.N. record on the protection of gay and lesbian people was poor. ECOSOC had taken only one initiative related to sexual minorities: a 1988 study on the legal and social problems of sexual minorities that was denounced by gay and lesbian groups as a grossly inadequate representation of homosexual men and women. In June, 1993, three lesbian and gay organizations were accredited for the U.N. World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna, Austria, but the recognition was only for the two-week conference.

Given that no government fully respected and protected human rights related to sexual orientation, the accreditation of ILGA at the United Nations was a significant breakthrough in the recognition of lesbian and gay rights at the international level. Its suspension months later was likewise a major setback. Consultative status would have given ILGA the ability to attend ECOSOC meetings and other annual human rights meetings at the United Nations, and to submit written statements on issues of concern to gays and lesbians. With the suspension of ILGA, sexual minorities around the world lost a chance to educate the world about human rights violations against lesbians and gays.

Following its suspension, ILGA in 1995 broadened its mission statement to adhere to international human rights standards, including the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. ILGA’s new policy recognized the right of every individual, regardless of age, to explore his or her own sexuality; at the same time ILGA supported the right of every child to protection from sexual exploitation and abuse.

ILGA has reapplied for consultative status, but ECOSOC voted on April 30, 2002, and again on January 23, 2006, to reject the organization’s bid to regain admission. In May, 2006, ILGA-Europe and a German GLBT group were denied NGO status, and on June 1, the Dutch LGBT organization Cultuur en Ontspannings-Centrum, Cultuur en Ontspannings-Centrum or COC, had applied for NGO consultative status, with a decision pending as of mid-June.

Despite ILGA’s continued suspension from the world body, important progress has been made. Other NGOs, such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have begun to advocate on behalf of sexual minorities. On March 31, 1994, the United Nations Human Rights Committee found that gays and lesbians are covered by the privacy and equality provisions of the Covenant of Civil and Political Rights. The 1995 United Nations World Conference on Women, held in Beijing, saw U.N. member states debate human rights issues related to sexual orientation. Finally, the first resolution to deal specifically with human rights and sexual orientation was introduced at the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in 2003. International Lesbian and Gay Association
Lesbian and Gay Association, International
United Nations;and GLBT organizations[GLBT organizations]

Further Reading

  • Adam, Barry D., Willem Jan Duyvendak, and André Krouwel, eds. The Global Emergence of Gay and Lesbian Politics: National Imprints of a Worldwide Movement. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1999.
  • LaViolette Nicole, and Sandra Whitworth. “No Safe Haven: Sexuality as a Universal Human Right and Gay and Lesbian Activism in International Politics.” Millennium: Journal of International Studies 23, no. 3 (1994): 563.
  • Ogilvie, Dayne. “NAMBLA Expelled from Rights Group.” Capital Xtra!, July 15, 1994, p. 17.
  • Osborne, Duncan. “The Trouble with NAMBLA.” The Advocate, December 14, 1993.
  • Walker, Kristen. “New Uses of the Refugees Convention: Sexuality and Refugee Status.” In The Refugees Convention Fifty Years On: Globalisation and International Law, edited by Susan Kneebone. Burlington, Vt.: Ashgate, 2003.

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