Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Gay rights statement divides UN

A Dutch and French joint initiative to get the United Nations to condemn discrimination against gay people has led to divisions within the world body.

The statement, which is non-binding, calls on countries to take all "necessary measures" to make sure people are not treated like criminals because of their sexual orientation. So far 66 of the 192 member countries have signed the treaty but the United States, the Vatican and the Islamic Conference countries have not.
In a speech to the UN on last week, Dutch foreign affairs minister Maxime Verhagen said the statement was "not radical" and reminded member states that the universal declaration of human rights also bans discrimination.

"Human rights apply to all people, in all places and at all times. So they apply to gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people too," Verhagen said. "As long as there is a divide between the principle of universality and the practice of everyday life, statements like this are vital."

Homosexuality is illegal in 86 countries around the globe with gays subject to the death penalty in countries like Iran and Yemen.

Verhagen also said he was disappointed in the US position: "It is a pity that a country which takes such a strong stand on human rights does not support this declaration."

Day Opening - December 24

Christmas tree in Prague Old Town Square