The UN Secretary-General, Mr Ban Ki-moon, marked 10 December 2010, international human rights day, with a landmark speech on the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. He called on all States and individuals to join forces to end violence and discrimination against LGBT persons. Departing from the safe ground of UN diplomacy, the Secretary-General vowed to ‘put himself on the line’ and pledged to “to speak out, at every opportunity, wherever I go …to rally support for the decriminalization of homosexuality everywhere in the world.” To show these were not empty words, the Secretary-General spoke of his advocacy for decriminalisation when he met with African leaders during a recent visit. He proudly referred to his personal intervention on the part of a young gay couple sentenced to 14 years prison in Malawi, which spurred the President to release them the same day.
Although he acknowledged the controversy that surrounds the discussion of sexual orientation at the UN, and the range of views amongst States, the Secretary-General called on all governments to decriminalise homosexuality “because it is the right thing to do”. His comment that there was no such thing as the ‘partial declaration’ or the ‘sometimes declaration’ – only the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – clearly made an impression on the packed room, as several States incorporated the reference in their subsequent remarks.
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