The United Nations Secretary-General has told delegates at a human rights conference that culture, tradition and religion cannot be used to justify denying gays and lesbians their human rights.
Speaking in a video message at the Oslo Conference on Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity on Monday, Ban Ki-moon denounced discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.
“We should all be outraged when people suffer discrimination, assault and even murder ﾖ simply because they are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. We should all speak out when someone is arrested and imprisoned because of who they love or how they look,” said Ban.
He stated that, “This is one of the great, neglected human rights challenges of our time. We must right these wrongs.
“Governments have a legal duty to protect everyone. But far too many still refuse to acknowledge the injustice of homophobic violence and discrimination,” said Ban.
“Some will oppose change. They may invoke culture, tradition or religion to defend the status quo. Such arguments have been used to try to justify slavery, child marriage, rape in marriage and female genital mutilation.
“I respect culture, tradition and religion ﾖ but they can never justify the denial of basic rights,” asserted Ban.
He went on to promise LGBT people that, “I am with you. I promise that as Secretary-General of the United Nations, I will denounce attacks against you… and I will keep pressing leaders for progress.”
The conference is sponsored by Norway and South Africa and is one of a series of regional seminars that are set to take place this year in France, Brazil, Nepal and in a location in Africa to be announced.
According to the UN News Centre, “The main purpose of these seminars is to gain better understanding of the specific human rights challenges for sexual minorities in each region, and to discuss how these challenges may best be overcome.”
The conferences are as a result of the historic South African-led resolution to combat violence and discrimination against people on the basis of sexual orientation that was adopted by the United Nations Human Rights Council in June 2011.