The UN Human Rights Council decided Thursday to appoint a UN observer on discrimination against homosexual and transgender people, despite efforts by China, Russia and several Muslim countries to block the measure.
European and South American countries had been pushing for the new UN observer position for some time, but the June 12 massacre at a gay night club in Florida that killed 49 people added urgency to their efforts.
A majority of mostly Western 23 countries on the council opted for creating the mandate of a new UN observer who is also tasked with lobbying governments to stop "violence and discrimination based on sexual discrimination and gender identity."
Eighteen countries - among them China, Russia and the Muslim nations of Bangladesh, Indonesia, Morocco and Qatar - voted against the mandate, while six abstained.
Saudi Arabian Ambassador Faisal bin Hassan Trad warned that the decision would "be used as an instrument to intervene in the business of the sovereign states that are trying to protect their cultural specificities."
"It imposes on us a specific notion that might be based on human rights on one side but that runs counter to religions on the other side," he said, echoing the stance of other Muslim countries.
Saudi Arabia would not cooperate with the UN observer, he announced.
British envoy Julian Braithwaite pointed out that opposition to the council's resolution signalled opposition to fighting violence against sexual minorities.
"How is that acceptable?" he asked.
Although Muslim countries were defeated, they managed to water down the text by inserting new paragraphs that deplore efforts to impose notions on "private individual conduct" on countries.