UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon [official profile] said in a statement [text] delivered Sunday to the African Union Summit that Africa must honor the Universal Declaration of Human Rights [text] by ending discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Many African nations still outlaw homosexuality. As of 2011, the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) [advocacy website] State-Sponsored Homophobia report [text, PDF], 76 countries still criminalize same-sex relationships, and five enforce the death penalty against homosexuals. Ban called for an end to this discrimination as part of Africa's further "investments in civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights." He said in his speech:
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a promise to all people in all places at all times. Let me mention one form of discrimination that has been ignored or even sanctioned by many States for far too long-discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. This has prompted some governments to treat people as second-class citizens, or even criminals. Confronting this discrimination is a challenge. But we must live up to the ideals of the Universal Declaration.Ban's statement follows statements by both US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and British Prime Minister David Cameron [statements] speaking out against the current state of gay rights in Africa on behalf of their governments.
In June, the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website] passed [JURIST report] the "Human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity" resolution, the UN's first resolution calling for an end to sexuality discrimination. In March 2009, the US signed [JURIST report] a UN gay rights declaration [text, PDF], which had previously been signed by 66 other nations. The declaration is a nonbinding measure that does not have the full force of a resolution. It urges on states to end criminalization and persecution of homosexuals. In 2008, the UN General Assembly [official website] was divided over the issue of decriminalizing homosexuality [JURIST report] with nearly half the countries calling for decriminalization, while the remaining countries opposed decriminalization.