U.N. calls for protecting gay rights worldwide

GENEVA,  (Reuters) – Homosexuals and transgender  people in all regions face discrimination and violence,  including killings, rape and torture because of their  orientation, and risk the death penalty in at least five  countries, the United Nations said yesterday.

In the first official U.N. report on the issue, it called on  governments to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender  (LGBT) people, prosecute all serious violations and repeal  discriminatory laws.

“Homophobic and transphobic violence has been recorded in  all regions. Such violence may be physical (including murder,  beatings, kidnappings, rape and sexual assault) or psychological  (including threats, coercion and arbitrary deprivations of  liberty),” said the report by U.N. High Commissioner for Human  Rights Navi Pillay.

The U.N. Human Rights Council commissioned the report in  June when it recognised the equal rights of LGBT people and said  there should be no discrimination or violence based on sexual  orientation. Western countries called the vote historic but  Islamic states firmly rejected it.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in a speech to the  47-member forum in Geneva on Dec. 6, said “it should never be a  crime to be gay”.

In addition to spontaneous “street” violence, people  perceived as being LGBT may be targets of more organised abuse,  “including by religious extremists, paramilitary groups,  neo-Nazis and extreme nationalists”, the U.N. report said.

Violence against LGBT people tends to be especially vicious,  with “a high degree of cruelty” including mutilation and  castration, it added.

They are also victims of so-called “honour killings” carried  out by relatives or community members who believe shame has been  brought on the family, according to the 25-page report.

Gay men have been murdered in Sweden and the Netherlands,  while a homeless transgender woman was killed in Portugal, it  said. Lesbian, bisexual and transgender women in El Salvador,  Kyrgyzstan and South Africa have experienced gang rapes, family  violence and murder.
Members of sexual minorities are disproportionately  subjected to torture, often in custody, the report said.
It cited allegations that in a police station in Indonesia,  a man and his male partner were severely beaten and sexually  assaulted a day after having been attacked by civilians.

A lesbian couple in Brazil were allegedly beaten at a police  station and forced to perform oral sex, according to the report.
Currently 76 countries have laws that are used to  criminalise behaviour on the basis of sexual orientation or  gender identity, it said, calling for their repeal.

“Such laws, including so-called ‘sodomy laws’, are often  relics of colonial-era legislation … Penalties range from  short-term to life imprisonment and even the death penalty,” it  said.

The sodomy trial of Malaysian opposition leader Anwar  Ibrahim ended yesterday after nearly two years of sensational  testimony with the judge saying he would deliver a verdict on  Jan. 9, ahead of a general election expected early next year in  the mainly Muslim country.
“In at least five countries, the death penalty may be  applied to those found guilty of offences relating to  consensual, adult homosexual conduct,” the U.N. report said.

It did not identify the countries, but activists named them  as Iran, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen. Areas of  Nigeria and Somalia also impose the death penalty for homosexual  practices, they said.

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