Several countries attended the United Nation’s first meeting on September 26 to discuss progress made in the LGBT equality movement across the world. Russia was not among them.
“Over the past decade, many countries have embarked on historic reforms—strengthening anti-discrimination laws, combating hate crime against LGBT people and sensitizing public opinion. But in spite of advances, very serious challenges remain,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay in a press release.
“In some places, things seem to be getting worse, not better. As you know, regressive new laws have been proposed or adopted in several Eastern European and African countries in the past year alone…We must, all of us, look for new ways to talk about this issue with governments—especially those that are reluctant to do so.”
During the meeting, foreign ministers implemented a declaration for LGBT protection and to combat homophobia and transphobia through public education campaigns.
“[The criminalization of LGBT relationships is] a tragedy that exposes millions of people to the risk of arrest and imprisonment and, in some countries, the death penalty,” the declaration between participating members said.
“Cognizant of the urgent need to take action, we therefore call on all United Nations Member States to repeal discriminatory laws, improve responses to hate-motivated violence, and ensure adequate and appropriate legal protection from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.”
76 countries still outlaw LGBT relationships with still widespread homophobia present in areas like education, work, and health.
“Not a week goes by without my office receiving reports of brutal violence and intimidation, police harassment and discriminatory treatment,” Pillay said in the meeting. “Those who speak out in defense of the rights of LGBT people risk persecution and assault and even, in some countries, legal sanctions.”
Russia was absent in the UN meeting while representatives from United States, Argentina, Croatia, Brazil, Norway, Netherlands, El Salvador, Israel, France, Japan, New Zealand, the European Union, Human Rights Watch and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission attended. The Russian embassy and the Russian Mission reported to have no knowledge of the meeting.
“The fact that it was happening was not secret. Any country could have requested to join,” UN human rights head Charles Radcliffe stated as the meeting “was announced.”
The first UN LGBT meeting took about an hour and is a forum in which the participants hope to make progress.
“They say that same-sex relationships and transgender identities go against their culture, religious beliefs or traditional values. My answer is that human rights are universal,” Pillay said. “Our campaign on behalf of marginalized communities will meet resistance, even opposition. We must not be discouraged. We must stay engaged. Let us keep voicing our concerns, let us keep finding new allies, sharing good practice and standing fast alongside local human rights defenders on the front lines of this struggle.”