U.N. calls for protecting gay rights worldwide

GENEVA Thu Dec 15, 2011 6:30pm GMT

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GENEVA (Reuters) - Homosexuals and transgender people in all regions face discrimination and violence, including killings, rape and torture because of their orientation, and risk the death penalty in at least five countries, the United Nations said on Thursday.

In the first official U.N. report on the issue, it called on governments to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, prosecute all serious violations and repeal discriminatory laws.

"Homophobic and transphobic violence has been recorded in all regions. Such violence may be physical (including murder, beatings, kidnappings, rape and sexual assault) or psychological (including threats, coercion and arbitrary deprivations of liberty)," said the report by U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay.

The U.N. Human Rights Council commissioned the report in June when it recognised the equal rights of LGBT people and said there should be no discrimination or violence based on sexual orientation. Western countries called the vote historic but Islamic states firmly rejected it.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in a speech to the 47-member forum in Geneva on December 6, said "it should never be a crime to be gay."

"HIGH DEGREE OF CRUELTY"

In addition to spontaneous "street" violence, people perceived as being LGBT may be targets of more organised abuse, "including by religious extremists, paramilitary groups, neo-Nazis and extreme nationalists," the U.N. report said.

Violence against LGBT people tends to be especially vicious, with "a high degree of cruelty" including mutilation and castration, it added.

They are also victims of so-called "honour killings" carried out by relatives or community members who believe shame has been brought on the family, according to the 25-page report.

Gay men have been murdered in Sweden and the Netherlands, while a homeless transgender woman was killed in Portugal, it said. Lesbian, bisexual and transgender women in El Salvador, Kyrgyzstan and South Africa have experienced gang rapes, family violence and murder.

Members of sexual minorities are disproportionately subjected to torture, often in custody, the report said.

It cited allegations that in a police station in Indonesia, a man and his male partner were severely beaten and sexually assaulted a day after having been attacked by civilians.

A lesbian couple in Brazil were allegedly beaten at a police station and forced to perform oral sex, according to the report.

Currently 76 countries have laws that are used to criminalise behaviour on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, it said, calling for their repeal.

"Such laws, including so-called 'sodomy laws', are often relics of colonial-era legislation ... Penalties range from short-term to life imprisonment and even the death penalty," it said.

The sodomy trial of Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim ended on Thursday after nearly two years of sensational testimony with the judge saying he would deliver a verdict on January 9, ahead of a general election expected early next year in the mainly Muslim country.

"In at least five countries, the death penalty may be applied to those found guilty of offences relating to consensual, adult homosexual conduct," the U.N. report said.

It did not identify the countries, but activists named them as Iran, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen. Areas of Nigeria and Somalia also impose the death penalty for homosexual practices, they said.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Sophie Hares)

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