Foreign ministers to UN call for end to violence, bias against LGBT people

WiG

Foreign ministers attending the first ministerial meeting held at the United Nations on the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender called on Sept. 26 for an end to violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity through a UN declaration.

The “ministerial declaration” by members of the LGBT Core Group at the United Nations called on “all United Nations Member States to repeal discriminatory laws, improve responses to hate-motivated violence and ensure adequate and appropriate legal protection from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.”

Participants included the U.S. Secretary of State, 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, as well as the executive directors of Human Rights Watch and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, speaking at the meeting, said, “Advancing equality for LGBT persons isn’t just the right thing to do.  It’s also fundamental to advancing democracy and human rights, which are at the foundation of American foreign policy, and I think the foreign policy of most of our colleagues, if not all of our colleagues here. We all know that as societies become more inclusive, they become better partners within the global community, and they become partners, all of whom are joined together by common values and common interests.”

The members declared in the statement their “strong and determined commitment to eliminating violence and discrimination against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.”

They also reaffirmed the “conviction that human rights are the birthright of every human being. Those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender must enjoy the same human rights as everyone else.”

The members noted progress on LGBT rights in recent decades – laws banning discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation, measures against bias-motivated violence and also steps to decriminalize homosexuality.

In the declaration, the members emphasized support for human rights leaders around the world, for education campaigns aimed at dismantling prejudice and praised the United Nations for adopting a resolution on human rights and gender identity and sexual orientation.

But, the declaration stated, “We remain gravely concerned that LGBT persons in all regions of the world continue to be victims of serious and widespread human rights violations and abuses.…

“It is a tragedy that, in this second decade of the 21st century, consensual, adult, same-sex relations remain criminalized in far too many countries – exposing millions of people to the risk of arrest and imprisonment and, in some countries, the death penalty. These laws are inconsistent with States’ human rights obligations and commitments, including with respect to privacy and freedom from discrimination. In addition, they may lead to violations of the prohibitions against arbitrary arrest or detention and torture, and in some cases the right to life.”

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, on UN.org, commended their resolve but stressed challenges: “In some places, things seem to be getting worse, not better. As you know, regressive new laws have been proposed or adopted in several Eastern European and African countries in the past year alone […] We must, all of us, look for new ways to talk about this issue with governments – especially those that are reluctant to do so.”