UN Commissioner backs LGBT rights

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The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has spoken of her support for equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people.

Louise Arbour made her comments after an historic meeting at the UN last week.

The event, held in parallel with the session of the third committee of the UN General Assembly, discussed the Yogyakarta Principles.

Named after the Indonesian city where they were adopted, the principles were introduced by 29 international human rights experts at a UN Human Rights Council session in Geneva in March 2007.

They refer to the application of international human rights law in relation to sexual orientation and gender identity and address issues such as rape and gender-based violence, extra-judicial executions, torture and medical abuses, repressions of free speech and discrimination in the public services.

Ms Arbour said in a statement:

“Next year we will celebrate the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – an occasion that provides an ideal opportunity to recall the core human rights principles of equality, universality and non-discrimination.

“Human rights principles, by definition, apply to all of us, simply by virtue of having been born human.

“Just as it would be unthinkable to exclude some from their protection on the basis of race, religion, or social status, so too must we reject any attempt to do so on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

“The Yogyakarta Principles are a timely reminder of these basic tenets.

“Excluding lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons from equal protection violates international human rights law as well as the common standards of humanity that define us all.

“And, in my view, respect for cultural diversity is insufficient to justify the existence of laws that violate the fundamental right to life, security and privacy by criminalizing harmless private relations between consenting adults.

“As such, I wish to reiterate the firm commitment of my Office to promote and protect the human rights of all people regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Last week’s event brought together non-governmental organisations, UN representatives and state delegates, and was an initiative co-sponsored by Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay.

The Yogyakarta Principles call for action from the UN human rights system, national human rights institutions, non-governmental organisations, and others.

Last year 54 states called for the UN Human Rights Council to act against egregious violations of the rights of LGBT people.