You are on page 1of 2

The United Nations speaks out Senior UN officials UN independent experts UN Secretary-General

on human rights
he United Nations is committed to fighting “Laws criminalizing homosexuality pose a
serious threat to the fundamental rights of “As men and women of conscience, we reject
all forms of discrimination. Over the years, (Special rapporteurs and other experts mandated
particular attention has been paid to tackling
lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individ- by the UN Human Rights Council) discrimination in general, and in particular
racial and sex discrimination, as well as discrimina-
uals, exposing them to the risk of arrest, deten- discrimination based on sexual orientation
tion and, in some cases, torture and execution.
tion based on a person’s health status, disability, or Commonly, criminal sanctions are accompanied
“The existence of laws criminalizing homo- and gender identity. When individuals are
sexual behaviour between consenting adults in
religious affiliation. More recently, the United Nations by a raft of other discriminatory measures that
private and the application of criminal penalties
attacked, abused or imprisoned because of
has become increasingly concerned with the preva- affect access to a wide range of rights—civil, their sexual orientation, we must speak out
against persons accused of such behaviour vio-
political, economic, social and cultural. We also
lence of discrimination on grounds of sexual orienta-
know that criminalization perpetuates stigma
late the rights to privacy and freedom from … Today, many nations have modern constitu-
tion and gender identity. discrimination set forth in the International
and contributes to a climate of homophobia,
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”
tions that guarantee essential rights and lib-
Lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender intolerance and violence.”
– Opinion adopted by the UN Working Group on
erties. And yet, homosexuality is considered
– UN High Commissioner for Human Rights,
(LGBT) persons are vulnerable to a range of human
Navi Pillay, 1 February 2011
Arbitrary Detention, 2 February 2007 a crime in more than 70 countries.  This is not
rights violations, including homophobic violence, right. Yes, we recognize that social attitudes
killings, rape, arbitrary detention and widespread dis- “The Special Rapporteur is deeply concerned
“I urge all governments to take steps to elimi-
about the continuing denigration campaigns run deep. Yes, social change often comes
crimination in the workplace and in access to basic nate stigma and discrimination faced by men
services like housing and healthcare. In more than who have sex with men, lesbians and transgen-
and the violent threats against defenders of les- only with time. But let there be no confu-
bian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights.” sion: where there is tension between cultural
70 countries, laws make it a crime to be homosex- der populations. They must also create social
– Report of the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation
ual, exposing millions to the risk of arrest, impris- and legal environments that ensure respect for
of human rights defenders, 30 December 2009
attitudes and universal human rights, rights
human rights and enable universal access to HIV
onment and, in some cases, execution. The UN Sec-
prevention, treatment, care and support.”
must carry the day. Personal disapproval,
retary-General, the High Commissioner for Human
– UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé, 17 May 2010
“Gender-based violence … is particularly acute even society’s disapproval, is no excuse to
Rights and heads of various UN agencies have all spo- when combined with discrimination on the basis
of sexual orientation or change of gender iden-
arrest, detain, imprison, harass or torture
ken out—calling for the worldwide decriminalization “One of the founding principles of the United tity. Violence against sexual minorities is on anyone, ever. “
of homosexuality and further measures to protect Nations is our faith in the dignity and worth the increase and it is important that we take – UN Secretary-General BAN Ki-moon,
people from violence and discrimination on the basis of every person, without distinction on the up the challenge of what may be called the
basis of race, colour, sex, language, religion, 10 December 2010
of their sexual orientation or gender identity. last frontier of human rights.”
property, birth or other status. Discrimina-
The UN human rights treaty bodies, whose role it tion in all its forms continues to undermine this – Presentaton of the report of the UN Special
Rapporteur on violence against women, 10 April 2002
is to monitor compliance by States parties with their principle … It rears its head …in tackling HIV/
obligations under international human rights treaties, AIDS, where stigmatizing men who have sex
“Regional and national particularities … or his-
with men and refusing to provide harm reduc-
have consistently held that States have an obliga- torical, cultural or religious practices, though
tion services for drug users sets back preven-
tion under existing treaty provisions to protect significant in many aspects, do not absolve
tion and treatment work.”
people from violence and discrimination on the governments from their duty to promote and
– United Nations Development Programme
basis of their sexual orientation. Similarly, the spe- protect all human rights and fundamental
Administrator Helen Clark, 10 December 2009
freedoms and to ensure that such protection is
cial rapporteurs, independent experts and working
universally applied and respected.”
groups appointed by the UN Human Rights Council “The World Health Organization removed homo-
sexuality from the International Classification of – Joint statement by UN human rights mandate-holders
to report on human rights challenges, have issued (on human rights defenders; contemporary forms of
Diseases on May 17th, 1990. This was an impor-
dozens of reports, statements and appeals highlight- racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related
tant step forward. Yet over two decades later, intolerance; violence against women; and the right of
ing the vulnerability of LGBT persons to human rights stigma and discrimination against homosexu- everyone to the highest attainable standard of
violations and calling on States to repeal or reform als still exists, and can result in restricted physical and mental health), 23 February 2007
discriminatory laws and policies. access to health services and missed targets
for health programmes....” “There exists no hierarchy of discrimination grounds.”
– World Health Organization Director-General – Report of the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of
Margaret Chan, 8 April 2011 religion and belief, 7 February 2008
“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”.
– Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 1)

“Among detainees, certain groups are subject to

double discrimination and vulnerability, includ-
“The Covenant proscribes any discrimination in
access to health care and underlying determi- Guidance issued
ing … gay, lesbian and transgender persons.”
– Report of the UN Special Rapporteur on torture and
nants of health, as well as to means and entitle-
ments for their procurement, on the grounds of …
by UN agencies
other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or sexual orientation.”
“Criminal law prohibiting sexual acts ... between
punishment, 9 February 2010
– UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, consenting adults in private should be reviewed,
General Comment No. 14 of 2000
with the aim of repeal.”
“International human rights law … requires
States to ensure non-discrimination and equal- “The prohibition against discrimination under – International Guidelines on HIV/AIDS and Human Rights,
ity (de jure and de facto) on the basis of gender, OHCHR and UNAIDS (2006)
article 26 (of the International Covenant on Civil
sexual orientation and gender identity.” and Political Rights) comprises also discrimina-
“Worldwide, men who have sex with men and
– Report of the UN Special Rapporteur on the tion based on sexual orientation”
transgender people suffer high levels of social
promotion and protection of human rights while
– UN Human Rights Committee decision exclusion and challenges to equality. Their
countering terrorism, 3 August 2009

in the case of X v. Colombia (2007) ability to realize their full health potential is
limited in a number of settings by laws that
“A right-to-health approach requires that States “States parties have the obligation to ensure that criminalize same-sex relationships and sexual/

decriminalize same-sex consensual conduct, as all human beings below 18 enjoy all the rights gender diversity.”
well as repeal laws that discriminate in respect set forth in the Convention without discrimina-
of sexual orientation and gender identity, in order – Report on Prevention and Treatment of HIV and Other
tion, including with regard to “race, colour, sex, Sexually Transmitted Infections among Men Who Have
to meet core obligations of the right to health and language, religion, political or other opinion,

on grounds of
Sex with Men and Transgender Populations,
create an environment enabling full enjoyment of national, ethnic or social origin, property, dis- World Health Organization (2008)
the right” ability, birth or other status”. These grounds

sexual orientation
– Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right of also cover adolescents’ sexual orientation “Governments should ensure that parliamentarians,
everyone to enjoyment of the highest attainable and health status.” police, judges and justice ministry officials are pro-
standard of physical and mental health, 27 April 2010
– UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, vided evidence-based information on the epidemi-

gender identity
General Comment No. 4 of 2003 ology of HIV and sensitized about the harmful pub-
lic health and human rights impacts of punitive and
Legal guidance to States issued by “States parties (to the Convention against Tor- laws, policies and practices relating to men who
have sex with men and transgender people.”
UN human rights treaty bodies ture) must ensure that, insofar as the obliga-
tions arising under the Convention are con- – Legal Environments, Human Rights and HIV
cerned, their laws are in practice applied to all Responses among Men Who Have Sex with Men and
“States parties (to the International Covenant persons, regardless of … sexual orientation Transgender People in Asia and the Pacific:
on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights) should An Agenda for Action, UNDP (2010)
(or) transgender identity.”
ensure that a person’s sexual orientation is not
– UN Committee against Torture,
a barrier to realizing Covenant rights … In addi- General Comment No. 2 of 2008
tion, gender identity is recognized as among
the prohibited grounds of discrimination.“ “The discrimination of women based on sex and
– UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, gender is inextricably linked with other factors
General Comment No. 20 of 2009 that affect women, such as race, ethnicity, reli-
gion or belief, health, status, age, class, caste,
“The Covenant (on Economic, Social and Cul- and sexual orientation and gender identity.”
tural Rights) prohibits any discrimination in
– UN Committee the Elimination of Discrimination
access to and maintenance of employment on against Women, General Recommendation
the grounds of … sexual orientation.” No. 28 of 2010
– UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights,
General Comment No. 18 of 2005

For more information:

United Nations Human Rights Office (OHCHR)
United Nations, New York, NY 10017
United Nations

11-30235—April 2011—3,000