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Thursday 21 June 2018

UN expert: Laws banning consensual gay sex repealed in 25 countries in 20 years

Same-sex couples live in a 'crucible of egregious violations' of human rights, the UN expert said
Same-sex couples live in a 'crucible of egregious violations' of human rights, the UN expert said

Laws outlawing consensual gay sex have been repealed in about 25 countries in the last 20 years but more than 70 nations still have such prohibitions, a UN expert has said.

Vitit Muntarbhorn, the body's first independent expert investigating discrimination based on sexual orientation, said lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people live in "a crucible of egregious violations" of human rights, enduring violence and discrimination in parts of the world.

Addressing a general assembly committee for the first time on Friday, Mr Muntarbhorn noted "a global trend toward decriminalisation of consensual same-sex relations".

At least five countries - Belize, Lesotho, Mozambique, Palau and Seychelles - have removed such laws just in the last five years.

"The gaps are, however, ubiquitous," Mr Muntarbhorn added.

Besides the dozens of countries where it is a crime - sometimes punishable by death - for people of the same gender to have sex, some countries also have criminal laws aimed at transgender people.

While some laws are rarely applied, they still fuel other forms of discrimination, Mr Muntarbhorn said.

H e called for the reformation of all criminal laws against same-sex relations and for establishing more anti-discrimination laws.

Mr Muntarbhorn's job became a flashpoint last year, when a number of African nations tried to stop his work.

T hey questioned its legal basis and said the UN was delving into national matters and prioritising LGBT issues over discrimination based on race or religion.

A proposal to suspend Mr Muntarbhorn ultimately lost a General Assembly vote, 77-86, with 16 abstentions.

His work has continued to face headwinds, with few countries responding when contacted about alleged rights violations, Mr Muntarbhorn said, adding that all details of the communications were confidential.

"Precisely because this mandate was so heated, so caustic, from the beginning, my humble intention during this year was to calm the situation through quiet engagement," said Mr Muntarbhorn, a Thai law professor who has served in other UN posts.

Mr Muntarbhorn will resign from his unpaid expert position on Tuesday due to illness in his family, with a successor due to be named in December.

Press Association

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