UN human rights chief briefs meeting on LGBT rights

An inflatable sculpture by British artist Alan Parkinson has opened at the United Nations office at Geneva (UNOG). The walk-through 'Luminarium' sculpture is designed to challenge diplomats, UN officials, school children and communities to think more creatively about how to make the work of the Human Rights Council better understood and applied around the world.  UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay speaking at the opening of week-long art installation. 10 June 2013 Geneva, SwitzerlandUnited Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay today took part in a groundbreaking ministerial meeting on violence and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons. The meeting marked the first time the topic had been the topic a Ministerial level at the United Nations.

Those present included the U.S. Secretary of State, the foreign ministers of Argentina, Brazil, Croatia, the Netherlands and Norway, the French minister for development cooperation and senior officials from Japan, New Zealand and the European Union, as well as the executive directors of Human Rights Watch and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission.

In her remarks, the High Commissioner highlighted the remarkable progress made in the past decade in securing the human rights of members of the LGBT community. “Many countries have embarked on historic reforms – strengthening anti-discrimination laws, combating hate crime against LGBT people and sensitizing public opinion,” she noted.

However, in spite of advances, serious challenges remain. “Not a week goes by without my Office receiving reports of brutal violence and intimidation, police harassment and widespread discriminatory treatment affecting LGBT people around the world. Those who speak out in defence of the rights of LGBT people risk persecution and assault and even, in some countries, legal sanctions”, she said.

Ms. Pillay reminded Ministers that in some places, conditions for LGBT people were deteriorating, not improving, citing as examples regressive new laws proposed or adopted in the past twelve months in several Eastern European and African countries.

The High Commissioner spoke about the resistance she sometimes meets when she raises the need for measures to protect the rights of LGBT people with Government representatives. “They say that that same-sex relationships and transgender identities go against their culture, religious beliefs or traditional values. My answer is that human rights are universal,” she said.

“Our campaign on behalf of marginalized communities will meet resistance, even opposition. We must not be discouraged. We must stay engaged. Let us keep voicing our concerns, let us keep finding new allies, sharing good practice and standing fast alongside local human rights defenders on the front lines of this struggle.” the High Commissioner said.