Some high-level diplomats representing Islamic and African nations walked out of Wednesday's historic United Nations Human Rights Council meeting on LGBT rights.
This happened after United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Human Rights High Commissioner Navi Pillay told the Geneva-based council that gays and lesbians should be protected by all governments, reports Radio Free Europe.
In a video message to council members on March 7, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said persecution of gays was "an attack on the universal values that the United Nations and I have sworn to defend and uphold."
[Ban] called the imprisonment, torture, and killing of persons based on their sexual orientation "a monumental tragedy for those affected and a stain on our collective conscience. It is also a violation of international law. You, as members of the Human Rights Council, must respond.".
The session was held to consider a first-of-its-kind report released late last year by the UN's high commissioner for human rights, Navi Pillay, which identified "a clear pattern of targeted violence and discrimination directed at people because they are, or are perceived to be" lesbian, gay, bisexual. or transgender." The report cited reports of killings, rape, physical attacks, torture, arbitrary detention, the denial of right of assembly, and discrimination in employment, health, and education.
Among the disturbing examples cited was an account of lesbians being gang-raped in Kyrgyzstan, and an Uzbek human rights defender who was charged with homosexuality, beaten by police, and threatened with sexual assault. The report also documented the Russian authorities' refusal to allow gay-rights activists to hold parades.
Wednesday's meeting was the council's first-ever session on sexual-orientation-based discrimination and violence. In June 2011, the UNHRC approved an historic resolution that condemned discrimination and violence against the LGBT community. The measure was sponsored by the United States, Colombia and South Africa. It was opposed by Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Russia, among others.
Islamic and African diplomats continue to deny any of their citizens are at risk, reported Reuters.
Speaking before the walkout for the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Pakistan described homosexuality as "licentious behavior" while African group leader Senegal said it was not covered by global human rights accords.
Nigeria—where gay rights groups say there have been many attacks on male and female homosexuals—declared none of its citizens was at risk of violence because of sexual orientation or gender identity before it too left the chamber.
And Mauritania, for the Arab group, all of whose members are also in the OIC, said attempts to impose "the controversial topic of sexual orientation" would undermine discussion in the council of all genuine human rights problems.
United Nations Secretary General Ban also addressed LGBT issues at January's meeting of the African Union, claiming that some African nations have treated gays like "second-class citizens or even criminals."
Seventy-six of the UN's 192 member countries have laws criminalizing same-sex behavior. At least five countries, including Iran, impose the death penalty as punishment for same-sex relations.
The situation is most acute in Africa. Same-sex acts are currently illegal in at least 38 of 54 African countries. Four nations—Mauritania, Nigeria, Somalia and Sudan—boast the death penalty for gays or same-sex activity. South Africa and Seychelles are the only African nations that protect LGBT rights.
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