51 Muslim states have blocked 11 gay and transgender organisations from attending a meeting ending Aids at the United Nations next month.
Egypt wrote to the president of the 193-member general assembly on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation – whose members include Saudi Arabia, Iran, Indonesia, Sudan and Uganda – to object to the participation of the groups.
It did not give a reason in the letter, just simple asked for the groups to be banned.
Samantha Power, US ambassador to the UN, wrote to the general assembly president, Mogens Lykketoft, and said the groups appeared to have been blocked for involvement in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocacy.
Given that transgender people are 49 times more likely to be living with HIV than the general population, their exclusion from the high-level meeting will only impede global progress in combating the HIV/Aids pandemic.
She also wrote,
We are deeply concerned that at every negotiation on a new general assembly gathering, the matter of NGO [non-governmental organization] participation is questioned and scrutinized. The movement to block the participation of NGOs on spurious or hidden grounds is becoming epidemic and severely damages the credibility of the UN,” she said.
UN officials said the EU and Canada also wrote to Lykketoft to protest against the objections by the OIC group.
The issues of LGBT rights and participation in events at the UN have long been contentious. The UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, has advocated for LGBT equality but faced opposition from African, Arab and Muslim states as well as Russia and China.
In 2014, the UN agreed it would recognize all same-sex marriages of its staff, allowing them to receive its benefits.
However, Russia, with the support of 43 states including Saudi Arabia, China, Iran, India, Egypt, Pakistan and Syria, unsuccessfully tried to overturn the move last year.
In February, the 54-member African Group, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the 25-member Group of Friends of the Family led by Belarus, Egypt and Qatar protested about six new UN stamps promoting LGBT equality.