The UN Human Rights Office has released a publication to help governments understand that gay rights are part of international human rights law.

The guide, titled Born Free and Equal, sets out the source and scope of some of the core legal obligations that countries have to protect the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.

The 60-page booklet is also designed as a tool for civil society activists, human rights defenders and others seeking to hold governments to account for breaches of international human rights law.

In recent years, while many States have made a determined effort to strengthen human rights protection for LGBT people, other countries – mainly in Africa and the Middle East – have refused to accept that LGBT rights are human rights.

In her foreword to the publication, High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay writes: “The case for extending the same rights to LGBT persons as those enjoyed by everyone else is neither radical nor complicated.

“It rests on two fundamental principles that underpin international human rights law: equality and non-discrimination. The opening words of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are unequivocal: ‘All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights’.”

The booklet focuses on five core obligations where national action is most urgently needed – from protecting people from homophobic violence, to preventing torture, decriminalising homosexuality, prohibiting discrimination, and safeguarding freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly for all LGBT people.

For each, the basis of the State’s obligation in international human rights law is explained with reference to the substantial body of decisions, recommendations and guidance issued by United Nations human rights mechanisms.

The booklet also includes examples of actions that can be taken at a national level to bring laws, policies and practices into line with applicable international human rights standards.

The UN Human Rights Office noted that in the coming years, much more needs to be done to confront prejudice and protect LGBT people in all countries from violence and discrimination.

“The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights hopes that this publication can help contribute to this end, by providing a practical resource for all those working for change – whether from the perspective of the United Nations, regional organisations, Governments, national human rights institutions or civil society,” said the Office.

Download the booklet here.

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