The UN Human Rights Council passed Friday a resolution that seeks equal rights regardless of the sexual orientation, despite strong Arab and African opposition.
The resolution was passed narrowly with 23 votes in favour, 19 against and three abstentions, after an emotional debate that saw African states accusing South Africa of breaking ranks with the region and siding with the West after it introduced the issue.
Presenting the text, South Africa's ambassador Jerry Matthews Matjila said that "no one should be subject to discrimination or violence due to sexual orientation or gender identity."
It also stressed that the resolution "does not seek to impose values on states, but seeks to initiate dialogue" on the issue.
However, Arab and African states were strongly opposed, with countries of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference demanding a vote.
"OIC states are deeply concerned by the ... resolution that intends to discuss very controversial notions that are on sexual orientation," said Pakistan on behalf of the OIC.
The OIC is "seriously concerned at the attempt to introduce to the UN some notion that has no legal foundations in any international human rights instruments."
"We are even more disturbed on the attempt to focus on certain persons on the grounds of their sexual interest and behaviour," the bloc added.
Nigeria, speaking on behalf of the African group, meanwhile attacked South Africa for its stance.
Nigeria's envoy Ositadinma Anaedu said African states were willing to discuss the issue "until we have consensus in the traditional pattern in which we discuss resolutions."
"But once we did not achieve that consensus, South Africa took it forward without all other members of the African group, in other words, breaking the tradition of African group," he recounted to the council.
"It grieves my mind because South Africa is the giant pillar of Africa," said the Nigerian ambassador, who also claimed that more than 90 percent of South Africans did not support the resolution.
But Friday's move was hailed as historic by other states including Argentina and the United States as well as by rights activists.
"Today we make history in the fight for basic fairness and equality," declared US envoy Eileen Donahoe.
The resolution "affirms that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights and that everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms ... without distinction of any kind."