In Geneva, Switzerland, the Human Rights Council held the first-ever formal United Nations ( UN ) inter-governmental debate on violence and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender ( LGBT ) people, according to a press release. The panel discussion ( sponsored by South Africa and Brazil ) was moderated by the ambassador of South Africa and featured panelists from Brazil, Pakistan, Sweden and the United States.
The panel arose out of the UN Human Rights Council resolution 17/19 ( June 2011 ) expressing "grave concern" at acts of violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. It requested the high commissioner for Human Rights to prepare a report on "how international human-rights law can be used to end violence and related human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity," and called for a panel discussion at this session to discuss the findings of the report in a "constructive, informed and transparent dialogue."
In a video message, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, "To those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, let me say: You are not alone. Your struggle for an end to violence and discrimination is a shared struggle. Any attack on you is an attack on the universal values the United Nations and I have sworn to defend and uphold. Today, I stand with you ... and I call upon all countries and people to stand with you, too."
However, representatives from some Muslim and Arab countries walked out of the panel, according to MSNBC.com . Speaking before the walkout for the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation ( OIC ) , Pakistan described homosexuality as "licentious behavior;" Nigeria, Senegal and Mauritania also departed.
Seventy-six of the UN's 192 member countries deem homosexuality illegal, according to rferl.org . At least five countries, including Iran, impose the death penalty as punishment for same-sex relations.