[JURIST] UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon [official website] on Friday called for countries around the world to abolish laws discriminating against gay and lesbian individuals [press release]. The message, read on his behalf by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official website] during a panel discussion about ending discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, said that laws that discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation are human rights violations:
No doubt deeply-rooted cultural sensitivities can be aroused when we talk about sexual orientation. Social attitudes run deep and take time to change. But cultural considerations should not stand in the way of basic human rights. … No one, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, should be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. No one should be prosecuted for their ideas or beliefs. No one should be punished for exercising their right to freedom of expression.
People face criminal sanctions for their sexual orientation in 78 countries, according to the UN.
In July, the UN Economic and Social Council [official website] voted 23-13 to accredit the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission [advocacy website] as a consultative non-governmental organization [JURIST report]. The commission, a human rights organization for those discriminated against based on sexual orientation and gender identity, had been working towards accreditation since 2007. According to the organization, it is the tenth gay-rights group [press release] among 3,200 accredited NGOs. Last year, US President Barack Obama endorsed a UN declaration [JURIST report] calling for the decriminalization of homosexuality, reversing the decision of his predecessor. By doing so, the US joined 66 other nations in supporting the document that divided the UN General Assembly. Nearly 60 nations signed an opposing statement, including China, Russia, members of the Islamic Conference and the Vatican.