UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has described LGBT activists as ‘brave’, ‘committed’ and an ‘inspiration’ to him.
The comments from the UN leader were read out by assistant secretary general for human rights, Ivan Šimonović, at a screening of gay documentary Call Me Kuchu at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival in New York last night (28 June).
The film covers the struggles faced by the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights movement in Uganda. It also focuses on the murder of veteran campaigner David Kato.
In the speech Ban Ki-moon said the film showed how gay activists were harassed, threatened and attacked.
'They are treated with a callous cruelty that no human being should have to endure. Yet despite all this, they conduct themselves with calmness, optimism and dignity. It is truly remarkable,' he said.
He stated that violence and discrimination against gay and trans people violates human rights and that countries have a moral and legal duty to do something about it.
Ki-moon continued: 'At the end of last year, the High Commissioner for Human Rights published the first official United Nations report on the problem. In all regions of the world, LGBT people suffer discrimination — at work, at home, at school, in all aspects of daily life. Too often they have trouble in finding housing or obtaining basic healthcare and pension benefits. Too often they are subjected to verbal abuse or singled out for attack, torture and even murder. In 76 countries, having a partner of the same sex is a prosecutable crime. People are arrested, imprisoned, in some cases executed, just because they are in a loving relationship.
'This is an affront to the principles on which the United Nations was founded: equality, freedom, tolerance and the inherent dignity of each individual.'
French activists, including the International Day Against Homophobia founder Louis-Georges Tin, are currently on hunger strike, demading their president, François Holland sponsors a resolution in the UN calling for the decriminalization of gay sex around the world.
However, some countries have hit back at attempts to improve the human rights situation for LGBT people, saying homosexuality goes against their cultural traditions.
But for them, Ki-moon had a clear message: 'No custom or tradition, no cultural values or religious beliefs, can justify depriving a human being of his or her human rights.
'That is why, as UN secretary general, I take every opportunity to push leaders to listen and to act. But I am conscious that the hardest work is done by local activists like those you will see in this film.
'To them I want to say: You are an inspiration to me and to millions of people around the world. I am proud to join in this great human rights cause. However hard and however long it may take, I know that justice will prevail and that all people can enjoy the rights and dignity they deserve.'
Tears of sympathy were shed and a long ovation followed the screening. Directors of Call Me Kuchu, Malika Zouhall-Worrall and Katherine Fairfax Wright attended the festival.
Call Me Kuchu won the Teddy Award for Best Documentary at the Berlin International Film Festival this year.