Peter Tatchell: Obama Urged to Back UN LGBT Rights Statement – Decriminalisation Statement Now Expected 15 to 20 December – Still Time to Lobby Governments to Support UN Initiative

gun9Obama urged to back UN LGBT rights statement

Decriminalisation statement now expected 15 to 20 December

Still time to lobby governments to support UN initiative

LATEST UPDATE on UN General Assembly statement

London UK – 11 December 2008

“I urge Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and the US Congress to speak out in support of the forthcoming UN statement on LGBT human rights,” said Peter Tatchell of the British lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) human rights movement, OutRage!

“To draw a line under the homophobic policies of the Bush administration, they need to publicly endorse this UN initiative for LGBT human rights.

“If the US government does not sign up, it will be aligning itself with homophobic non-signing regimes like Iran, Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, Uganda and Belarus,” he said.

The presentation of the ground-breaking statement on LGBT issues to the UN General Assembly is now expected to take place between 15 and 20 December (not 10 December, as previously reported). The exact date is yet to be finalised. It partly depends on other UN business.

This means there is still time to lobby governments to sign up and support the UN LGBT rights statement (copy below).

It will be the first time in its history that the UN General Assembly has had before it a statement in support of LGBT human rights.

“The failure of President Bush to approve this UN statement is a shabby betrayal of the humanitarian values that the US claims to represent and defend,” added Mr Tatchell.

“The US government often berates Zimbabwe, Burma and Sudan over their human rights violations. These condemnations will ring hollow if the US refuses to support the UN statement. This is a test of the US government’s commitment to universal human rights.

“Washington will lose ever more respect and credibility if it fails to endorse this initiative for LGBT human rights,” he said.


UN statement on decriminalising homosexuality and supporting LGBT human rights

There are a number of new developments:

The UN “declaration” is being called a “statement” and technically (in UN terms) is it a statement not a declaration, so it is best to call it a statement in any publicity or media coverage.

The statement is finalised, so the US and other countries cannot claim that it is not finalised and use this as an excuse to explain their non-signature (a copy of the UN statement follows below).

Please note that the recommendations of the UN statement include more than the decriminalisation of homosexuality:

As well as seeking the decriminalisation of same-sex acts, the statement also condemns all human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity, urges countries to protect the human rights of LGBT people and to bring to justice those who violate these rights, and calls for human rights defenders who oppose homophobia and transphobia to be allowed to carry out their humanitarian work unimpeded.

A list of supporting countries (as of now) is below.

Contrary to earlier reports, Australia and Venezuela have signed. Guinea-Bissau was thought to have agreed but has, in fact, not yet signed up. It probably will sign but this is not 100% certain.

France may not now present and read the statement to the UN General Assembly. It might instead hand this task to a developing country (so the statement does not seem a purely western initiative).


According to Human Rights Watch, these countries have signed so far:

Andorra, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chile, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Estonia, Finland, France, Gabon, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, Montenegro, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, United Kingdom, Uruguay, Venezuela.


We have the honour to make this statement on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity on behalf of [.]

1 – We reaffirm the principle of universality of human rights, as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights whose 60th anniversary is celebrated this year, Article 1 of which proclaims that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”;

2 – We reaffirm that everyone is entitled to the enjoyment of human rights without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status, as set out in Article 2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 2 of the International Covenants on Civil and Political, Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, as well as in article 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;

3 – We reaffirm the principle of non-discrimination which requires that human rights apply equally to every human being regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity;

4 – We are deeply concerned by violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms based on sexual orientation or gender identity;

5 – We are also disturbed that violence, harassment, discrimination, exclusion, stigmatisation and prejudice are directed against persons in all countries in the world because of sexual orientation or gender identity, and that these practices undermine the integrity and dignity of those subjected to these abuses;

6 – We condemn the human rights violations based on sexual orientation or gender identity wherever they occur, in particular the use of the death penalty on this ground, extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, the practice of torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment, arbitrary arrest or detention and deprivation of economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to health;

7 – We recall the statement in 2006 before the Human Rights Council by fifty four countries requesting the President of the Council to provide an opportunity, at an appropriate future session of the Council, for discussing these violations;

8 – We commend the attention paid to these issues by special procedures of the Human Rights Council and treaty bodies and encourage them to continue to integrate consideration of human rights violations based on sexual orientation or gender identity within their relevant mandates;

9 – We welcome the adoption of Resolution AG/RES. 2435 (XXXVIII-O/08) on “Human Rights, Sexual Orientation, and Gender Identity” by the General Assembly of the Organization of American States during its 38th session in 3 June 2008;

10 – We call upon all States and relevant international human rights mechanisms to commit to promote and protect human rights of all persons, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity;

11 – We urge States to take all the necessary measures, in particular legislative or administrative, to ensure that sexual orientation or gender identity may under no circumstances be the basis for criminal penalties, in particular executions, arrests or detention.

12 – We urge States to ensure that human rights violations based on sexual orientation or gender identity are investigated and perpetrators held accountable and brought to justice;

13 – We urge States to ensure adequate protection of human rights defenders, and remove obstacles which prevent them from carrying out their work on issues of human rights and sexual orientation and gender identity.


The presentation of the statement for the worldwide decriminalisation of homosexuality and for the human rights of LGBT people is now expected to take place at the UN General Assembly between 15 and 20 December.

This means there is still time to lobby governments to sign up and support it.

The list of signatory countries is growing but it is still well short of a majority.

With coordinated, concerted lobbying efforts by LGBT and human rights organisations we can persuade more countries to endorse the UN statement.

Please redouble your efforts to get your local legislators and political leaders to press your government to declare its commitment to support the statement – if it has not done so.

If your government has already announced its support for the UN statement, please use whatever influence you can muster with neighbouring governments that have not yet signed up.

A short lobbying briefing on the UN statement follows below:

UN General Assembly to consider a joint statement urging the decriminalisation of homosexuality worldwide

By Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner

It will be the first time in its history that the UN General Assembly has been presented with a statement in support of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) human rights.

Although not binding on the member states, the statement of principle will have immense symbolic value, given the six decades in which homophobic persecution has been ignored by the UN General Assembly.

Note: LGBT human rights have, however, been previously raised in other UN forums and commissions.

Even today, not a single international human rights convention explicitly acknowledges the human rights of LGBT people. The right to physically love the person of one’s choice is nowhere directly enshrined in any global humanitarian law. No convention specifically recognises sexual rights as human rights. None offer explicit protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Yet 86 countries (nearly half the nations on Earth) still have a total ban on male homosexuality and a smaller number also ban sex between women. The penalties in these countries range from a few years jail to life imprisonment. In at least seven countries or regions of countries (all under Islamist jurisdiction), the sentence is death, including Saudi Arabia, Iran, Yemen, Sudan, Mauritania and parts of Nigeria and Pakistan.

See the global survey of homophobia, published by the International Gay and Lesbian Association:

The UN decriminalisation statement will be tabled in the General Assembly with the backing of all 27 member states of the European Union and of other countries in Africa, Australasia and Latin America.

South Africa and the US are among the many countries that have not indicated their backing.

In the run up to the presentation of the statement in the UN General Assembly, more countries that have not signed up so far are likely to confirm their support.

An all-out lobbying effort in the next week will increase our chances of a large roll-call of UN member states in support of the statement.

Thank you and solidarity, Peter Tatchell, OutRage! London UK.

See also:

  1. Fabio

    Hello everyone! This is an announcement in support to the EU statement on decriminalisation of homosexuality which will be presented at UN in the very next days.

    Many activists around the globe are gathering on a Facebook Global Cause: “Support Decriminalisation of Homosexuality at UN!”
    In 10 days we got over 35.000 contacts. We aim at reaching 50.000 by the time the statement will be presented.

    Please join the cause and ask your friend to do the same. This is an open space where many information from different countries are published live. We welcome your contributions and reports


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