October 18, 2016 at 12:53 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
U.N. report urges countries to decriminalize homosexuality

Human Rights Day, gay news, Washington Blade

A U.N. report urges countries to decriminalize consensual same-sex sexual relations. (Photo by sanjitbakshi; courtesy Flickr)

A U.N. report urges countries to decriminalize consensual same-sex sexual relations.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Raad al-Hussein notes in the report to the U.N. Human Rights Council that “states that criminalize consensual homosexual acts are in breach of international human rights law.”

“These laws, by their mere existence, violate the rights to privacy and nondiscrimination,” it reads. “Arrests and the detention of individuals on charges relating to sexual orientation and gender identity — including offenses not directly related to sexual conduct, such as those pertaining to physical appearance or so-called ‘public scandal’ — are discriminatory and arbitrary.”

The report from May 2015 notes consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized in more than 70 countries.

Those found guilty of homosexuality in a handful of countries that include Iran, Saudi Arabia, Mauritania and Sudan and in portions of Nigeria and Somalia face the death penalty. The so-called Islamic State has publicly executed dozens of men in Syria and Iraq who were accused of committing sodomy.

“The application of the death penalty in this context represents a grave violation of human rights, including the rights to life, privacy and non-discrimination,” reads the report.

Sao Tome and Principe, Mozambique, Palau, Nauru and the Seychelles have decriminalized consensual same-sex sexual acts since 2011. Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin of the Belize Supreme Court in August ruled his country’s colonial-era sodomy law is unconstitutional.

Caleb Orozco, gay news, Washington Blade

Caleb Orozco, an LGBT rights advocate who challenged Belize’s sodomy law, speaks with the Washington Blade at the lower Manhattan offices of OutRight Action International on Sept. 21, 2016. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

The U.N. report notes the U.K and a number of states in Australia have moved forward with efforts to expunge the criminal records of those who were convicted under sodomy laws.

The German government this month announced it will set aside more than $30 million to compensate the more than 50,000 men who were convicted of homosexuality after World War II. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau this fall is expected to formally apologize to gay Canadians who were convicted of “gross indecency” before the country decriminalized consensual same-sex sexual relations in 1969.

“States have an obligation to protect the rights to privacy, liberty and security of the person, including the right not to be subjected to arbitrary arrest and detention,” reads the U.N. report.

Justin Trudeau, gay news, Washington Blade

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks to reporters at the U.N. General Assembly in New York on Sept. 20, 2016. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

  • Ted Sevel

    The Islamic State is “so-called” because it is Islamic.

    Homosexuality is strictly forbidden in Islam. That means laws banning “homophobia” in the mentioned countries and “the so-called “Islamic State” will be considered “Islamophobic”.

  • WesternIowan

    So if these countries are in breach of international law, then there is no point to upholding any laws in these regions until they stop or for the global community to uphold any law that benefits these regions in any way whatsoever until they stop.

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