United Nations calls on UK to stop discrimination against LGBT teens

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A United Nations committee has called on the UK to take “urgent measures” to fight intolerance of gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans young people.

The Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) met last month. It is one of seven UN-linked human rights treaty bodies.

Countries that have signed the Convention on the Rights of the Child are required to submit regular reports on how it is being implemented to the Committee, made up of independent experts who make recommendations.

The UK submitted its report at the meeting.

The Committee’s ‘concluding observations’ mention LGBT young people for what is thought to be the first time.

It welcomed the new Equality Bill, which it said provided “clear opportunities to mainstream children’s right to non-discrimination into the UK anti-discrimination law.” It is due before Parliament in this session.

“However, the Committee is concerned that in practice certain groups of children, such as: Roma and Irish Travellers’ children; migrant, asylum-seeking and refugee children; lesbian, bisexual, gay, and transgender children (LBGT); children belonging to minority groups, continue to experience discrimination and social stigmatisation.

“The Committee is also concerned at the general climate of intolerance and negative public attitudes towards children, especially adolescents, which appears to exist, including in the media, and may be often the underlying cause of further infringements of their rights.”

CRC recommended that the UK government:

a) take urgent measures to address the intolerance and inappropriate characterisation of children, especially adolescents, within the society, including the media;

b) strengthen its awareness-raising and other preventive activities against discrimination and, if necessary, take affirmative actions for the benefit of vulnerable groups of children, such as: Roma and Irish Travellers’ children; migrant, asylum-seeking and refugee children; lesbian, bisexual, gay, and transgender children (LBGT); children belonging to minority groups;

c) take all necessary measures to ensure that cases of discrimination against children in all sectors of society are addressed effectively, including with disciplinary, administrative or – if necessary – penal sanctions.

The UK ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1991. It sets out the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of children. Nations that ratify it are bound under international law.

The US has signed the treaty but not completed the ratification process due to opposition from conservatives and religious fundamentalists. 193 states are party to the Convention.

The issue of LGBT rights has been contentious at the UN.

At a recent meeting of the UN Human Rights Council Benin rejected calls to decriminalise homosexuality.

Zambia said it would not to decriminalise same-sex activity between consenting adults or develop HIV/AIDS programmes to respond to the needs of sexually-active gay men.

Egypt said killings based on sexual orientation do not warrant the same degree of attention or concern as killings based on race.

Pakistan rejected calls to decriminalise adultery and non-marital consensual sex, claiming the recommendations fall outside “universally recognised human rights.”

In more positive developments, in September the French minister of human rights and foreign affairs said she will appeal at the United Nations for the universal decriminalisation of homosexuality.

Until the end of 2008 France will speak for all EU member states at the UN General Assembly, as they hold the rotating Presidency of the European Union.

Earlier this year it was reported that the French initiative on decrminalisation will take the form of a solemn declaration from UN states, rather than a vote in the UN on the matter.

However, Rama Yade said in September that France will submit a draft declaration at the General Assembly in December. The British government also advocates universal decriminalisation.