[JURIST] The UN Human Rights Council [official website] on Wednesday urged member states to put an end to sexual orientation-based violence [press release] and discrimination. In a video address [video; transcript], UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official website] acknowledged that sexual orientation and gender identity are sensitive subjects, but said action needs to be taken because lives are at stake. He called the violation of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) individuals’ rights “a monumental tragedy” and “a violation of international law.” Reaching out to LGBT individuals the Secretary-General said:
To those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, let me say: You are not alone. Your struggle for an end to violence and discrimination is a shared struggle. Any attack on you is an attack on the universal values the United Nations and I have sworn to defend and uphold. Today, I stand with you, and I call upon all countries and people to stand with you, too. A historic shift is underway.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official website] recognized [text] that some “may argue that homosexuality and expressions of transgender identity conflict with local culture or traditional values … or that they run counter to public opinion.” Despite this, she encouraged to go forth with the fight against discrimination. Pillay presented her study [report, PDF; JURIST report], the first-ever on the subject, which outlines findings of violence, discriminatory laws and practices based on individuals’ sexual orientation and gender identity. Within the UN itself, however, there is opposition to this undertaking. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation [official website] (OIC) addressed the assembly and stated its opposition to the notion of sexual orientation.
Individuals face criminal sanctions due to their sexual orientation in approximately 76 countries, according to the UN. In September 2010 Ban called for countries around the world to abolish laws discriminating against gay and lesbian individuals [JURIST report]. In July 2010 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]. In 2009 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.