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Kaleidoscope Trust welcomes first ever UN debate on LGBT human rights

The Kaleidoscope Trust has welcomed the first ever UN plenary debate on LGBT human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity, which took place today at the United Nations in Geneva.


Despite opposition from Pakistan and Islamic nations, the UN Human Rights Council panel reaffirmed its commitment to fighting discrimination and persecution of LGBT people sending a strong signal to countries still criminalising homosexuality or planning to introduce similar legislation which aims to limit the freedom of expression and association for LGBT people.


Around the world, people face human rights violations because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, including killings, torture, rape, criminal sanctions, and other forms of violence and discrimination. This is the first ever UN debate in relation to these systematic human rights abuses, and to outline the international human rights legal framework as it applies to discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The debate affirms that States have a duty under international law to protect the human rights of all persons, including those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex.


Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, called on countries to repeal laws that criminalize homosexuality, abolish the death penalty for offences involving consensual sexual relations, harmonize the age of consent for heterosexual and homosexual conduct, and enact comprehensive anti-discrimination laws.


In 76 countries it remains illegal to engage in same-sex conduct and in at least five countries - Iran, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen - the death penalty prevails. 


Ms. Pillay recommends that Member States also promptly investigate all killings or serious violent incidents perpetrated because of actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity, and to establish systems to record such incidents.


The High Commissioner also calls on countries to ensure that no one fleeing persecution because of their sexual orientation or gender identity is returned to a territory where their life or freedom is at threat, and that asylum laws recognize that sexual orientation or gender identity is a valid basis for claiming persecution.


The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, who had previously prepared the ground breaking study on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity opened the session saying:


'I am conscious of the divergent view both within and outside the Council on the rights of individuals based on sexual orientation and gender identity. However, I am certain that none among you will be willing to tolerate serious, systematic violations of human rights against them. 

'At least 76 countries retain laws that either explicitly criminalize same-sex relations between consenting adults, or contain vague prohibitions that are applied in a discriminatory way to prosecute LGBT people. These laws are an anachronism, in many cases a relic of colonial rule. As the Human Rights Committee has confirmed repeatedly, they breach international human rights law, violating rights to privacy and to freedom from discrimination. They also cause enormous, unnecessary suffering, reinforce stigma, fuel violence, and undermine efforts to fight the spread of HIV/AIDS'.

Lance Price, Director of the Kaleidoscope Trust, said: 


'This is a milestone development. The UN Commissioner for Human Rights has made it clear that there can be no ifs and no buts. The rights of LGBT people are not special rights. They are the same basic human rights to which everybody is entitled. The debate starts here.

'The powerful recommendations set out today set a clear agenda for action and mark a major step forward in a global campaign for justice that gathers momentum every day. There are huge challenges to be faced and we call on the Commonwealth to show the same level of commitment.

'We believe that changing the legal situation isn't enough and public opinion is just as important. That's why Kaleidoscope Trust works with local groups and activists on the ground to build their capacity and offer support in fighting stigmatisation and promoting diversity and equal rights globally'