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United Nations: Rights Commissioner Urges Repeal of Homophobic Laws

(May 18, 2012) Navanethem Pillay, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, honored International Day Against Homophobia on May 17, 2012, by issuing a statement calling for the end of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. (On Anti-Homophobia Day, UN Calls for Repeal of Discriminatory Laws, UN NEWS CENTRE (May 17, 2012).)

Pillay noted that there are still laws criminalizing same-sex relationships between consenting adults, in about 80 countries, territories, and areas of the world. “We cannot let these abuses stand. We know what needs to be done. States must repeal discriminatory laws and ban discriminatory practices: punish violence and hatred … not love,” Pillay stated. (Id.)

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon echoed Pillay's views and called for an end to violence against those in the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) community, as well as promotion of anti-discrimination policies in the workplace and general public education on equal treatment. (Id.)

The International Day Against Homophobia is not an officially observed United Nations day, but is rather described as “a rallying event offering an opportunity for people to get together and reach out to one another,” while they continue working against discrimination and mistreatment. (International Day Against Homophobia, Foundation Emergence website, (last visited May 17, 2012).) It grew out of a day of observance held in Quebec Province, Canada, and became an international event in 2005. (The Origin, International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia website (last visited May 17, 2012).)

Pillay said of her efforts to speak up for equal treatment of LGBT people:

When I raise these issues, some complain that I'm pushing for 'new rights' or 'special rights' for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. But there is nothing new or special about the right to life and security of person, the right to freedom from discrimination. … These and other rights are universal … enshrined in international law but denied to many of our fellow human beings simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.” (UN NEWS CENTRE, supra.)