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UN marks International day Against Homophobia

Members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender

Members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender movement hold a gay pride flag as they attend a march to mark the International Day Against Homophobia in Managua, Nicaragua. (May 17, 2013) Credit: AP

UNITED NATIONS -- The UN commemorated the International Day Against Homophobia on Friday, saying lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are entitled to protection by governments under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

"I am outraged that we still have to fight prejudice, stigma, discrimination, exclusion, criminalization of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, not only in their homes, but in their streets, police stations and court rooms," said Michel Sidibe, executive director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, at a news conference in New York.

"It is unacceptable that only one in 10 gay men have access to lifesaving HIV services. HIV prevalence among men who have sex with men is 19 times higher than in the general population," he continued. "If we are going to end AIDS we need the LGBT community more than ever."

Sidibe spoke a day after UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay delivered UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's message at the International Forum on the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, in The Hague, the Netherlands.

"The fight against homophobia is a core part of the broader battle for human rights for all," Ban's statement said. "The Universal Declaration of Human Rights promises a world that is free and equal, and we will only honor that promise if everyone -- without exception -- enjoys the protection they deserve."

The Declaration's preamble proclaims that "recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world." Adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1948, the document was drafted with the assistance of former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt.

Sidibe said that as many as 76 countries have laws on the books that outlaw same-sex relationships.

"We know what needs to be done," Ban continued. "Draconian laws used to criminalize and punish LGBT people must be replaced by new laws that are in harmony with universal human rights conventions and protect everyone from discrimination on grounds of their sexual orientation and gender identity."

As part of the commemoration, the UN released a two-minute YouTube video, The Riddle, which highlights the plight of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgendered people who are attacked or denied privileges because of their sexual orientation in many countries.

"Today, as we commemorate International Day Against Homophobia, we rededicate ourselves to a basic but essential truth -- that human rights are universal and must be protected for all," said U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice.

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