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Justice and equality for all regardless of gender or sexual orientation

In a strongly worded statement High Commissioner Navi Pillay has come out against discrimination directed at lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender groups.

Rama Yade, France’s Secretary of State for Human Rights under the Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, addresses delegates at the World Congress on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity in ParisPillay was speaking in a pre-recorded message to delegates at an international Congress in Paris organised by the French Government. The Congress aims to build on the progress made late last year when the UN General Assembly heard a statement endorsed by more than 50 countries which called for an end to rights abuses based on sexual orientation and gender identity. While the statement was non binding, it was squarely based on and reaffirmed existing protections for human rights in international law. It was historic, in that it was the first time that the condemnation of human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity was publically criticized by a large number of states, in the context of the General Assembly.

“The principles of universality and non-discrimination admit no exception,” Pillay said. “The criminalization of different sexual orientation cannot be justified either as a matter of law or as a matter of morality.”

In her address, Pillay acknowledged the concerns that are often expressed in discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Frequently, fears are expressed for the sanctity of the family. “Those doubts and fears,” she said, “can be readily addressed through a human rights approach, which upholds the principles of non-discrimination and respect for diversity.”

Concerns too are often voiced that respect for the human rights of gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender people might unwittingly shield pedophiles from justice. “Nothing limits the applicability of criminal law where actual harm occurs,” she said, “as in the sexual abuse of children, irrespective of whether it is perpetrated by homosexuals or heterosexuals.”

The World Congress on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity is being held at the National Assembly in Paris. The Congress has been organised with the participation also of the Norwegian and Dutch governments and in the framework of the celebration of the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia on 17 May.

15 May 2009