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Unprecedented ministerial meeting on LGBT rights protection

“Not a week goes by without my Office receiving reports of brutal violence and intimidation, police harassment and widespread discriminatory treatment affecting LGBT people around the world. Those who speak out in defence of the rights of LGBT people risk persecution and assault and even, in some countries, legal sanctions”, said UN Human Rights Chief, Navi Pillay.

Pillay was speaking at a ground-breaking ministerial level UN meeting in New York on violence and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons. The event marked the first time the issue had been discussed at ministerial level at the United Nations.

In her remarks, the UN Human Rights Chief highlighted the remarkable progress made in the past decade in securing the human rights of members of the LGBT community. “Many countries have embarked on historic reforms – strengthening anti-discrimination laws, combating hate crime against LGBT people and sensitizing public opinion,” she noted.

However, Pillay reminded Ministers that, in spite of advances, serious challenges remain. She noted that in some places, conditions for LGBT people were deteriorating, not improving, citing as examples regressive new laws proposed or adopted in the past twelve months in several Eastern European and African countries.

The High Commissioner spoke about the resistance she sometimes meets when raising the need for measures to protect the rights of LGBT people with Government representatives. “They say that same-sex relationships and transgender identities go against their culture, religious beliefs or traditional values. My answer is that human rights are universal,” she said.

In July, the UN Human Rights Office launched “Free & Equal”, a global public information campaign to promote respect for the human rights of LGBT people everywhere.

“Our campaign on behalf of marginalized communities will meet resistance, even opposition. We must not be discouraged. We must stay engaged. Let us keep voicing our concerns, let us keep finding new allies, sharing good practice and standing fast alongside local human rights defenders on the front lines of this struggle,” Pillay said.

Those present at the meeting included the U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry; the foreign ministers of Argentina, Héctor Timerman, Brazil, Luiz Alberto Figueiredo, Croatia, Vesna Pusić, the Netherlands, Frans Timmermans, and Norway, Espen Barth Eide; the French minister for development cooperation, Pascal Canfin; senior officials from Japan, New Zealand and the European Union; as well as the executive directors of Human Rights Watch, Kenneth Roth, and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, Jessica Stern.

For more information on the “Free & Equal”, campaign, and to access and share campaign materials, please visit www.unfe.org or follow the campaign on Facebook (facebook.com/free.equal) or Twitter (@free_equal).

7 October 2013

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