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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, pledges support for decriminalization of homosexuality

21 December 2010

“When individuals are attacked, abused or imprisoned because of their sexual orientation,   we must speak out. Where there is tension between cultural attitudes and universal human rights, universal human rights must come first.  Personal disapproval, even society's disapproval, is no excuse to arrest, detain, imprison, harass or torture anyone – ever,” the UN Secretary-General said.

Speaking at an event at the UN Headquarters in New York, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for the immediate and worldwide abolition of criminal sanctions for homosexuality and for measures to counter violence directed at people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

The Secretary-General referred to a young activist from Uganda, Frank Mugisha, who had taken part in an event organized by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights Office, to mark Human Rights Day 10 December. “With extraordinary eloquence, Mr.  Mugisha has appealed to the United Nations for help. He asked us to rally support for the decriminalization of homosexuality everywhere in the world. And that is what we will do. We have been called upon, and we will answer,” said the Secretary General.

Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, Ivan Simonovic, told the gathering of some three hundred senior diplomats and civil society activists, that the United Nations position was in favour of equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons (LGBT) and is supported by the body of international human rights law and by the expert mechanisms established by States to promote compliance. He said, “to date, five treaty bodies have issued decisions or General Comments confirming that existing language on non-discrimination establishes an obligation on States parties to protect gay, lesbian and bisexual persons from discrimination. As many as seventeen of the special procedures mandate-holders have also highlighted the vulnerability of LGBT persons and called for efforts to counter homophobic violence and discrimination.”

The Assistant Secretary-General also added that it was of great concern that in more than seventy countries, homosexuality still remained a criminal offence. He said, “people are entitled to disapprove of homosexuality, and to express their disapproval, but they are not entitled to use the force of the criminal law to arrest, detain, imprison and in some cases torture or execute their fellow human beings just because they disapprove of them.”

Mr. Simonovic said, “we should also be looking for other ways as well, to ensure that LGBT people are able to exercise their human rights the same as others. And we should be doing all that we can to chip away at homophobia, which lies at the very root of much of the discrimination, and the violence that continues to affect LGBT people.”

The event was held on 10 December 2010 at the United Nations in New York.

21 December 2010