Robert Blitt

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Publication Title

Transnational Law & Contemporary Problems


This article further explores the Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s (“OIC”) peculiar understanding of international nondiscrimination and equality norms by considering how it engages with sexual orientation and gender identity (“SOGI”) rights. After reviewing the OIC’s historical approach to human rights and its ambivalent acceptance of universality, the article focuses on the organization’s contemporary effort to promote the “protection of the family” within the international human rights arena. This campaign — driven by the OIC’s belief that “Islamic family values” are under legal and intellectual assault — champions only those families premised on marriage between a man and a woman. Consequently, families built around lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (“LGBTI”) and other relationships risk exposure to inequality, discrimination and denial of existing rights under international human rights law.

OIC advocacy of protection of the family, however, is by no means the only area where the organization has sought to exclude the LGBTI community. Nor does the OIC’s position in the narrow context of family reflect a complete accounting of its motives for opposing recognition of SOGI rights. Accordingly, the article proceeds to consider how other core components of the OIC’s human rights platform and accompanying rationales manifest hostility even to the slightest hint of SOGI rights recognition. As will be demonstrated, this hostility cuts across a wide swath of human rights issues, ranging from extrajudicial killings to the right to health. And while by no means reflective of the sole possible interpretation of Islamic norms, the OIC continues to press its view as authoritative, generating significant controversy and fallout, particularly at the United Nations.

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Publication Date

Winter 2018

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