Norway’s Deputy Permanent Representative, Ambassador Tine Mørch Smith, told the audience that the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons (LGBT) must not be seen as separate. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights applies to all people without exception. Gay rights are human rights.
Human rights activists from the United States, Middle East, Africa and Asia described the challenges they face in their countries. Hate crimes is a problem in the United States. In Lebanon activists seek to tie the struggle for LGBT-rights to the broader democratization agenda of the Arab Spring. In Nigeria, they seek to halt legislation criminalizing homosexuality. In Thailand, transsexuals are fighting for recognition.
According to the UN, 76 countries have made it illegal to have a sex with someone of the same sex. In some countries being identified as gay carries the death penalty. Bullying based on sexual orientation and gender identity problems is a problem in all nations. Young people are particularly vulnerable. Systematic discrimination can drive people to depression and sometimes suicide. The Secretary General was clear in his condemnation:
“This is moral outrage, a grave violation of human rights and a public health crisis. It is also a loss for the entire human family when promising lives are cut short.”
Ban stressed that for States, it is also a matter of legal obligation. Under international human rights law, all States must take the necessary measures to protect people – all people – from violence and discrimination, including on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity, he said.
The Secretary General's statement was presented by Ivan Šimonović, Assistant Secretary General for Human Rights. Šimonović also pointed out that while there has been progress in some areas, there have also been several setbacks in recent years, mainly in Africa and East Asia.
Human Rights Watch’s Kenneth Roth led the discussion. The audience was comprised of representatives of UN Member States, UN organizations and civil society. Following the panel discussion there was a lively debate.