Following – the Russians?

The Russians have had enough. Last year at the Human Rights Council in Geneva, they initiated a process that was supposed to result in a resolution connecting human rights to traditional values. Almost immediately, they walked into a buzz saw of opposition from the usual quarters: the European Union, the United States, and their NGO supporters from “human rights” and homosexual groups.

The western powers are very good at derailing what they don’t like. The original Russian draft resolution asserted that human rights have their roots in the moral force of traditional values. It included language supporting the right to life, the importance of the family in society, and the role of major religions, things that could easily have come from the pen of Tony Perkins at the Family Research Council.

Left-leaning states charged that the Russian draft failed to consider the connection between traditional values and human rights abuses. Specifically the United States and some European countries said that the rights of women, homosexuals, and transsexuals were undermined by traditional values.

A new “study” was commissioned, which ended up removing all references to the right to life, family, and religion. More than that, the new draft targeted traditional values as undermining the rights of women and minorities.

As usually happens at the United Nations, the left was satisfied. But not the Russans and not many others either. The new study was supposed to be discussed in Geneva last week. And here the Russians struck with a conservative cultural confidence that can only send shivers down the spine of the Europeans and the LGBT claque in the U. S. Department of State.

The Russians simply ignored their opponents, demanded a vote and won. They were far from alone. The resolution was co-authored by over sixty other governments and ended up passing the Human Rights Council with a vote of 25 –15, with 7 countries abstaining.

The new document strikes a blow for traditional values in the understanding of human rights and makes clear that human rights are universal and not “evolving,” as the left asserts.

Within moments of the vote, the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement that my C-FAM colleague Stefano Genarrini described as “brimming with confidence.” As in this:  “The Russian Federation, together with the opinion allies, will continue promoting the idea of the inseparable connection of human rights and traditional moral values in the Human Rights Council.”

The statement went on to criticize the actions of the European Union and United States, specifically mentioning that the “negative position of these countries, their unwillingness to work at the text and fanciful arguments against the resolution draft cause regret.”

What we are witnessing at the United Nations is an awakening of the Russian social policy bear. Many governments have grown weary of the aggressiveness of the sexual left, now firmly ensconced in the U. N. bureaucracy and human rights machinery.

Most member states are fed up with the constant reproductive health and rights drumbeat. In fact, at the recently concluded Rio+20 negotiations on the environment, Russia led the way in cutting out reproductive-rights language, a setback that caused the left, including Hilary Clinton, to denounce the Rio outcome document.

We are many years into the effort to make homosexuality and its attendant permutations into new protected categories of international law. More than half of the U. N. General Assembly object to this, the Russians in particular.

Most countries are nervous or downright fearful about standing up to the pressure. Many of them rely on the largesse of the United Nations, European Union, and United States. The Obama State Department made personal visits to U. N. missions and made threats over a vote in the Human Rights Council calling for a study of violence against homosexuals.

A country like Jamaica, for instance, which is politically and culturally hostile to homosexuality, withered under such pressure and – though they did not vote in favor – agreed to abstain.

But Russia is not afraid of U. N., E. U., or U. S. bullying. Russia is deeply concerned with its own shrinking population and has begun an internal debate about legal abortion. The Russian people do not accept homosexuality as normal. At the same time, Russia seems happy to join this fight with her geopolitical competitors.

Having Russia lead on these issues helps in many ways. It takes the pressure off of the Holy See, which has always been uncomfortable to be seen as leading this fight. The Holy See has preferred to lend moral support, to speak out at key moments – but not to lead. Then there is the fact that Russia is not a Muslim state. Muslim states acting alone or through the Organization of the Islamic Conference are caricatured as Ayatollahs on social policy.

Some will say, that’s all well and good, but should social conservatives make common cause with a geopolitical competitor of the United States? Some will ask if we’re concerned about Russia’s domestic crackdown, and what about Pussy Riot?

In a perfect world, the western democracies and the United Nations would champion the unborn rather than promote abortion. They would defend traditional marriage rather than promote barbaric sexual practices as human “rights.”

Russia is far from perfect, but on social policy she is a good deal better than we are at the moment.


Austin Ruse is the President of the New York and Washington, D.C.-based Center for Family & Human Rights (C-Fam), a research institute that focuses exclusively on international social policy. The opinions expressed here are Mr. Ruse’s alone and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of C-Fam.