Gays, lesbians must be treated as equal members of human family – UN rights chief

High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay

18 December 2008 – The top United Nations human rights official lamented today that there are still too many countries that criminalize sexual relations between consenting adults of the same sex and that some 10 States still have laws making homosexual activity punishable by death.

“Those who are lesbian, gay or bisexual, those who are transgender, transsexual or intersex, are full and equal members of the human family and are entitled to be treated as such,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay told high-level panel discussion on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity, held at UN Headquarters in New York.

“The ageless cliché that everyone is equal but some are more equal than others is not acceptable. No human being should be denied their human rights simply because of their perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. No human being should be subject to discrimination, violence, criminal sanctions or abuse simply because of their perceived sexual orientation or gender identity,” she said in a video message.

“Ironically many of these laws, like Apartheid laws that criminalized sexual relations between consenting adults of different races, are relics of the colonial and are increasingly recognized as anachronistic and as inconsistent both with international law and with traditional values of dignity, inclusion and respect for all.”

She said that laws proscribing the death penalty for such activities are used to justify threats, attacks to the physical and moral integrity of persons, including their exposure to torture, with human rights defenders being particularly vulnerable.

“The stigma attached to these issues means that violence and discrimination often go unpunished as victims dare not report their cases and the authorities do not pay sufficient attention to those who do,” Ms. Pillay added.


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