Russia, US and South Africa under pressure to sign UN decriminalisation statement

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LGBT activists in several countries have asked their governments to support a statement on the universal decriminalisation of homosexuality to be presented at the UN next month.

The French initiative is backed by all EU nations.

In the Americas the most notable absence is the United States.

New York-based publication Gay City News is to run a front page editorial this week calling on President-elect Barack Obama and his nominee for US Secretary of State, Senator Hillary Clinton, to publicly back the declaration.

“We all know the Bush administration is no more likely to support it than a pig is to celebrate Christmas,” said GCN journalist Doug Ireland.

Russian gay activists from LGBT Project GayRussia.Ru have sent a letter to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sergei Lavrov, asking that Russia puts its signature under the statement.

South African LGBT news outlets have questioned why their country, the only one in Africa to have legal same-sex marriage, is not among the signatories.

Human Rights Watch reports that the following countries are supporting the French initiative:

Andorra, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria

Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria

Canada, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chile, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic

Denmark, Ecuador, Estonia, Finland

Gabon, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy

Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, Montenegro

The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania

San Marino, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland

The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, United Kingdom, Uruguay and Venezuela.

The United Nations General Assembly will meet in New York next week.

It is not yet known at what stage during the six day session the statement will be read from the podium.

Louis Georges Tin, the founder of the Inernational Day Against Homophobia, is behind the initiative.

He met with Rama Yade, France’s minister of human rights and foreign affairs, earlier this year.

In September she confirmed that 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.

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.

France will submit a draft declaration at the UN General Assembly between December 15th and 20th. The British government already advocates universal decriminalisation.

More than 80 countries outlaw same-sex relations in all circumstances.

The maximum punishments range from a few years jail to life imprisonment.

In nine countries, or regions of countries, the mandatory punishment for homosexuality is death by execution.

The Holy See does not have a vote at the UN, but its observer has tried to claim that “states which do not recognise same-sex unions as ‘matrimony’ will be pilloried and made an object of pressure,” as a result of the declaration.

“It’s not for nothing that fewer than 50 member states of the United Nations have adhered to the proposal in question while more than 150 have not adhered. The Holy See is not alone,” a Vatican spokesman said last week.