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UN Expert Urges Greater Protection of LGBT Rights Worldwide

FILE - Then-U.N. human rights investigator Vitit Muntarbhorn gestures during a press conference at United Nations headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, March 15, 2010.

A human rights expert is urgently appealing for an end to violence and discrimination against people based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. The expert has presented the first ever report to the U.N. Human Rights Council spelling out the magnitude of abuse and suffering experienced by LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) people worldwide.

Controversy has followed Vitit Muntarbhorn since his appointment as the first ever independent expert on the rights of LGBT people. The Thai international law professor has come in for personal abuse and received threats from those who are opposed to the protection of gays and transgender people.

His first report to the U.N. Human Rights Council will not endear him to governments and others who shun people with a different sexual orientation. Muntarbhorn reports some 70 countries criminalize same sex relations, particularly between men. And, he says, about 40 countries criminalize same sex relations between women who have sex with women.

Globally, Muntarbhorn says people perceived as having a different sexual orientation and/or gender identity from what is considered the “norm” are subject to horrific forms of violence, abuse and discrimination.

“Violations are pervasive in numerous settings. Killings, rape, mutilation, torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, lashings, abductions, arbitrary detention, harassment, physical and mental assaults, bullying from a young age, pressures leading to suicide,” said he.

Muntarbhorn says discriminatory measures against LGBT are widespread and aggravated by incitement to hatred in many settings. He is calling for mutual respect, tolerance and understanding of people with a different sexual orientation, buttressed by national laws.

The independent expert says biases and prejudices tend to emerge from a young age. He says the lack of education and awareness, which may feed the phobias and bigotry against LGBT, should be addressed early on so young people can learn respect for diversity.