The U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, the foreign ministers of Argentina, Brazil, Croatia, the Netherlands and Norway, the French minister for development cooperation and senior officials from Japan, New Zealand and the European Union took part in a groundbreaking ministerial meeting on violence and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons at the UN in New York on September 26. The meeting was also attended by the executive directors of Human Rights Watch and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission.
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) noted that the meeting marked the first time the topic is being discussed at a Ministerial-level meeting at the United Nations. The meeting was held on the margins of the General Assembly’s annual high-level debate.
Participants at the Ministerial meeting on the Role of the United Nations
in Ending Violence and Discrimination against lesbian, gay,
bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. UN Photo/Amanda Voisard
See more photos here.
Foreign ministers attending the meeting adopted a declaration pledging not just to protect LGBT rights but also to counter homophobic and transphobic attitudes in society at large, including through public education campaigns.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay commended their resolve to act, but stressed many more challenges remain on this issue.
In her remarks, the High Commissioner 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 sensitising public opinion,” she noted.
However, in spite of advances, serious challenges remain. “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”, she said.
Pillay reminded Ministers 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 she raises 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.
“Our campaign on behalf of marginalised 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.” the High Commissioner was quoted as saying in an OHCHR media statement.
More than 76 countries still criminalise consensual adult same-sex relationships, while in many more countries discrimination against LGBT people is widespread – including in the workplace and in the education and health sectors.
In July, OHCHR launched Free & Equal, a global public information campaign to promote respect for the human rights of LGBT people everywhere. For more information on the 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)