human rights news & views

Vatican calls for worldwide repeal of ‘sodomy laws’

Last week 66 nations at the UN General Assembly adopted a landmark statement affirming the equal rights of all persons, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.  It was the first time the UN body has formally dealt with the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people.

In debate prior to the vote, the representative of the Holy See condemned all forms of violence and discrimination against homosexual persons and urged States to end to all criminal penalties against them.  Homosexual conduct is still illegal in dozens of countries.

Navanetham Pillay, the UN high commissioner for human rights, lamented the fact that we are still debating "whether all human beings have rights."

The universality of human rights is clear in the founding document of the modern human rights movement, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948.  It states: "Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind" (Art. 2).

That discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity is prohibited was made explicit by the UN Human Rights Committee in 1994.  The prohibition also appears in South Africa's constitution of 1996, the gold standard for constitutional protection of human rights.

The Council of Europe and the European Union have also specifically opposed these forms of violence and discrimination, while in 2008 all 34 member countries of the Organization of American States (OAS) affirmed the human rights of persons of all sexual orientations and gender identity.  Argentina and Brazil were among those nations that initiated the General Assembly statement.

The statement enjoyed "unprecedented African support," but the Vatican did not ultimately sign the non-binding statement.


  1. 23 December 2008 | 3:24 pm

    Then again . . .

    Pope wants humanity ‘saved’ from homosexuality
    ABC News
    23 Dec. 2008


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