New Delhi, March 26, 2015 (Agencies) India joined countries like Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and Iran to vote in favour of a resolution at the United Nations to stop the organisation from extending staff benefits to same-sex couples.

India was among the 43 countries, which on Tuesday voted in favour of the Russia-drafted resolution seeking to overturn a June 2014 decision by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to allow the organisation to recognise all same-sex marriages of its staff and thus entitle them to marital benefits, regardless of their nationality.

The resolution was moved by Russia at the Fifth Committee of the UN General Assembly. However, it was defeated with 80 nations voting against it and 37 others abstaining.

A spokesman of the Ministry of External Affairs said in New Delhi that India had decided to vote in favour of the resolution because the UN Secretary-General had not consulted the member nations before changing the way of determining personal status of employees.

The personal status of a UN employee was previously determined by the laws applicable in his or her country. Ban, who is known for his stand against homophobia, however, in June 2014 issued a bulletin, allowing personal status to be determined by the law of the competent authority under which the personal status was established.

This made it possible for a UN employee, no matter which nation he or she hailed from, to marry a same-sex partner in any country, where same-sex marriages are legal, and claim all benefits, which his or her married heterosexual colleagues were entitled to. “Then the UN Secretary-General changed it on his own accord. Our objection was against the change by the secretariat without consulting countries,” he added.

Same-sex marriage continues to be illegal in India. A Delhi High Court had in 2009 overturned the Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, legalising consensual homosexual activities between adults. The Supreme Court, however, in December 2013 set aside the judgment of the Delhi High Court.

During his visit to New Delhi in January, the UN Secretary-General had referred to India’s colonial-era law banning gay sex and said that he “staunchly opposed criminalisation of homosexuality”.

“I am proud to stand for the equality of all people — including those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender.

“I speak out because laws criminalising consensual, adult same-sex relationships violate  basic rights to privacy and to freedom from discrimination. Even if they are not enforced, these laws breed intolerance,” he had said in an obvious nudge to India to decriminalise consensual sex between adult same-sex partners.

The United States on Tuesday spearheaded the opposition to the resolution moved by Russia at the Fifth Committee of the UNGA. 

“We must speak plainly about what Russia tried to do today: diminish the authority of the UN Secretary General and export to the UN its domestic hostility to LGBT rights,” Samantha Power, US envoy to UN, said in a statement on Tuesday.

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