Saturday, December 10, 2011
UN Secretary General Speaks Out Against Violence and Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
Homophobic bullying of young people constitutes a “grave violation of human rights,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said this week, urging States to take the necessary measures to protect their citizens from violence and discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. “Bullying of this kind is not restricted to a few countries but goes on in schools and local communities in all parts of the world,” Mr. Ban said in a message delivered by Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Šimonovic to a panel discussion on ending violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation at UN Headquarters in New York. “It affects young people all the way through to adulthood, causing enormous and unnecessary suffering. Bullied children may become depressed and drop out of school. Some are even driven to suicide.”
Mr. Ban stressed the need to change harmful attitudes in society that encourage discriminatory laws and practices by State authorities. “Tackling this problem is a shared challenge. We all have a role, whether as parents, family members, teachers, neighbours, community leaders, journalists, religious figures or public officials,” he said, adding that States are legally obliged to protect their citizens from this type of violence.
There are currently 76 countries where individuals face criminal sanctions for engaging in private in consensual sexual relations with another adult of the same sex, Mr. Šimonovic told the panel, adding that the UN has been working to establish dialogue with these States to advance the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons and that while several countries have made remarkable progress, there is still much to be done. “Gradually, States are coming to see that the commitments to eliminate discrimination enshrined in the Universal Declaration [of Human Rights] and in our core United Nations human rights treaties apply to everyone, not just heterosexuals but gays and lesbians and bisexual, transgender and intersex people too.”
The panel discussion included the participation of: Philippe Kridelka, Director of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); Kenneth Roth, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch; Judy Shepard, mother of Matthew Shepard, a gay United States man who was tortured and killed; and Doi Nakpor, Nadine Moawad and Kelly Orazulike, human rights defenders in Thailand, Lebanon and Nigeria, respectively.
(Adapted from a UN Press Release)