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GENEVA, Switzerland – Gay-rights supporters and faith leaders from around the world are applauding the first-ever UN report that documents discrimination and violence against LGBT people around the world.
The historic report, issued today by the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), ambitiously recommends UN member states to use international human rights law “to end violence and related human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity.”
This follows calls by the United Kingdom and the United States to use governmental policy and diplomacy to affect change to improve the lives of LGBT people across the globe.
The 25-page report, which can be viewed in full below, is titled “Discriminatory laws and practices and acts of violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.” Here is the first graph of the report:
“In all regions, people experience violence and discrimination because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. In many cases, even the perception of homosexuality or transgender identity puts people at risk. Violations include – but are not limited to – killings, rape and physical attacks, torture, arbitrary detention, the denial of rights to assembly, expression and information, and discrimination in employment, health and education. United Nations mechanisms, including human rights treaty bodies and the special procedures of the Human Rights Council, have documented such violations for close to two decades.”
Most significantly, the UN report recommends the repeal of laws used to criminalize people on grounds of homosexuality for engaging in consensual same-sex sexual conduct, and harmonize the age of consent for heterosexual and homosexual conduct.
“Today the United Nations has sent a powerful message to member states around the world, echoing what Hillary Clinton said last week: Gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights,” said Andre Banks, AllOut.org co-founder. “This groundbreaking report adds major momentum to the work that LGBT equality advocates are doing worldwide. We applaud the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the South African government in particular, for their courage and commitment to this historic civil and human rights struggle.”
Straight ally the Bishop Christopher Senyonjo, who is one of the brave voices fighting against Uganda Parliament’s attempts to pass the “Kill The Gays” bill and who works tirelessly in support of gay and human rights in his country, said today that he is pleased with the UN report.
“I commend the hard work and collaboration that this report illustrates from our 47 international partners on the UN’s Human Rights Council. They have created an ‘indaba’ – a listening process that is familiar to Africans. They have provided the safety for many thousands of people to open deep wounds again and share their stories, experiences and aspirations. Their courage is to be commended in the hope the next generation may not have to suffer the indignities of our blood-stained past,” the bishop said.
“This work represents the possibility that we can to learn to respect each other, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. We can learn to forgive each other for our complicity in silence or for acts of violence in word and deed against LGBT people. There is another African tradition whereby the spilling of the blood of another is regarded as a major taboo and should be avoided by all faithful people. The spilling of blood caused by homophobia should become our global taboo. This report is a small step towards new possibilities and hopes,” Bishop Christopher said.
“The report is also a valued and well researched document that deserves our deeper study. Every institution, political, cultural or religious must pay attention to the reported patterns of personal and institutional violence that are present in all our diverse cultures. We must ask ourselves two important questions: 1. What is my participation and my organizational participation in this level of unnecessary human suffering? 2. What can I do to change the patterns of violence and engage in creative solutions so LGBT people may claim their rights and responsibilities without shame or fear? If we can live with these two questions and find ways to answer them, we will become a more compassionate humanity, reflecting more wonderfully the image of our Creator,” the bishop said.
The Rev. Canon Albert Ogle, president of San Diego-based St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation and an activist with the COMPASS Coalition that is fighting for the global decriminalization of homosexuality, said the report was very important.
“The report provides us with a much-needed tool and photograph of the international implications of homophobia. The Council is to be commended for their diligence and hard work in reporting these human rights abuses and ways we can continue to hold governments accountable for the protection of and access to equal rights for all their citizens,”
“How we use this tool as civil society, religious and political actors remains to be seen. The human-rights framework to end LGBT violence is only one aspect of the work before us and not the final panacea. There is clearly a lot more research and dialogue needed in this relatively new area of focus for the international community,” he said.
“One important outcome of the report for all people of faith is we can no longer ignore the relationship between anti-gay theology and misinformation about LGBT people and violence. Agreed conventions and the body of human rights legislation creates an internationally agreed ‘red line’ under which governments cannot go. Religious communities are also called to balance these political standards with the older moral law of finding and respecting the Image of God (Imago Dei) in their neighbors. This older moral standard operates ‘above the red line’ and invites us to soar to new human potential. Both the human rights framework and the Imago Dei framework need to hold each other accountable. We are diminished when religious organizations and faith leaders operate from a place below the red line or encourage political leaders to do the same. The report will help us dialogue more deeply in the connections between these two value- based systems. We need each other and these two systems should not be seen as incompatible,” Ogle said.
Alice N’Kom, an attorney who is founder of the Association for the Defense of LGBT Rights in Cameroon (ADEFHO), sees the report as a breakthrough moment.
“I am so proud that this breakthrough was initiated by an African country, and that South Africa is standing up for human rights. Not only were they leaders at the United Nations in pushing for the passage of this historic resolution on LGBT rights, they are also setting an example for all African countries and sending a simple message: Homophobia is not an African value,” she said.
Ifeanyi Orazulike, public health advocate and director of the International Center for Advocacy on Right to Health (ICARH) in Abuja, Nigeria, who is also active in the COMPASS Coalition, said that the report addresses the root of the problem.
"This report highlights how the majority of our countries still cling to penal codes written under colonial rule -- laws that make the lives and loving relationship of LGBT people illegal. And these laws and the prejudicial attitudes that keep them in place don't just punish LGBT Africans - they make our societies sicker - by undercutting our urgent work to battle the HIV/AIDS pandemic on the continent,” Orazulike said. Nigeria is one of 68 countries around the world where being gay is a crime.