Delivered by Mr. Todd Howland, Representative in Colombia of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
I am pleased to offer my warmest congratulations to all those participating in the launch of the United Nations Free & Equal campaign in Colombia.
I sincerely thank the Government of Colombia for supporting today’s event and for its commitment to eliminate violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
I would also like to pay tribute to those activists from civil society working to promote respect for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Colombia. The United Nations fully supports you in this vital task.
I am a staunch advocate of the Free & Equal campaign because I refuse to be silent in the face of prejudice of any kind. Stigma and intolerance force millions of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people around the world to life in fear, in shame and in hiding. As Secretary-General of the United Nations, I appeal for an end to the discrimination, abuse and violent attacks that characterize this deplorable human tragedy. I am also proud to have taken steps to foster greater equality within the UN family.
The Free & Equal campaign provides an opportunity for all of us – leaders, artists, journalists, activists, teachers, parents and every individual of conscience – to take an active stand against this prejudice and support our LGBT colleagues, neighbours, friends and family members.
I appeal to Governments worldwide to remove criminal sanctions for consensual, same sex relationships, and put in place effective legal protection against discrimination, including on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. All members of our human family should be treated with the compassion, respect and dignity they deserve.
Realizing these goals will benefit affected individuals today – and create a more just, stable and hopeful world for generations to come.
Together, we can and we will build a world that is free and equal.