Yvonne Chaka Chaka, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and
Ricky Martin (Pic: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas)

Singers Ricky Martin from Puerto Rico and Yvonne Chaka Chaka from South Africa joined UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon at a UN forum in New York on Tuesday to condemn homophobia.

The event, addressing the role of leadership in the fight against homophobia, was held at the UN headquarters to celebrate International Human Rights Day.

Ban told journalists that LGBT people around the world suffer discrimination because of their sexual orientation and gender identity at work, at clinics and hospitals, and in schools; the very places that should protect them.

“More than 76 countries still criminalise homosexuality. I am pained by this injustice. I am here to again denounce violence and demand action for true equality. Let me say this loud and clear: lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are entitled to the same rights as everyone else,” said the UN head.

The openly gay Martin said that he wished he could come out again and hoped that all gays and lesbians could be in a position to do the same.

“For many years I lived in fear. I thought that music had given me a lot of power. I was going around the world singing to stadiums full of people, and all I have to say is that I was living in fear,” explained Martin.

“Because I was hating myself, because I grew up listening to a very crooked concept; you are gay, you belong in hell. It took me a minute to come out, but when I did, it felt incredible. That’s what I mean, I wish I could do it again, and I wish I could stand in front of the cameras and talk to people that are struggling with their identity and just let them know that it is just beautiful.”

Chaka Chaka, one of the biggest selling recording artists in Africa, denounced those who used traditional culture as a justification for discriminating against gay and lesbian people.

“I respect culture very much but we should not be hiding behind culture. People are fighting today because of religion. People are fighting because all sorts of things. I think we need to stand as human beings and say, you cannot just discriminate; people should be what they want to be,” said Chaka Chaka. 

“I think straight people should respect other people because, for me, I don’t think there’s anything crooked about LGBT. Their only crime is because they love the same gender.”

The mother of four boys went on to say: “I could not care less if my child brings an Indian girl home, or brings an albino, or brings Peter home. That is OK. If my sons just say to me, this is who I want to be with, I have to respect that and say that’s okay.”

The Secretary-General first launched an international appeal for action to violence and discrimination against LGBT people two years ago.

In June 2011, the Human Rights Council adopted the first UN resolution on violence and discrimination against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.

In December last year, the High Commissioner for Human Rights published the first official UN report documenting appalling abuse against LGBT people around the world.

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