UN Sec General Ban Ki-moon Says End the Criminalization of Homosexuality

by Michael A. Jones of

In more than 80 countries around the globe, folks can be thrown in jail, arrested, beaten, tortured or executed simply because of who they love. That fact, according to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, is not only detrimental to the worldwide struggle against epidemics like HIV/AIDS, it's also a blatant violation of human rights.

In a statement marking World AIDS Day yesterday, Ban Ki-moon urged for an end to the criminalization of homosexuality, which he argued made it more difficult to fight HIV/AIDS. The epidemic, it turns out, finds a breeding ground where the closet door meets the stiff arm of government oppression.

"I urge all countries to remove punitive laws, policies and practices that hamper the AIDS response," the Secretary General said, referencing laws that criminalize homosexuality. "That means countering any form of HIV-related stigma and discrimination."

A similar message was championed by UNAIDS yesterday, which tipped its hat to the international LGBT community for making HIV/AIDS not only a global health issue, but an issue of justice, equality and fairness, too.

"As a social movement, the gay community changed AIDS from simply another disease to an issue of justice, dignity, security and human rights," said Michael Sidibe, the director of UNAIDS.

Decriminalizing homosexuality has become hot stuff within the UN system these days. Earlier this year, a statement put forward by France calling for the worldwide decriminalization of homosexuality garnered more than 60 signatures, including the United States (albeit after a certain 44th President was elected. Turns out #43 favored the way that places like Sudan and Iran treated the issue of homosexuality).

 And last month, a number of UN folks have come out like gangbusters to denounce a proposed set of anti-LGBT laws in Uganda. One of those folks is Stephen Lewis, the former UN Special Envoy for HIV and AIDS in Africa, who said that Uganda's hard right turn on the issue of human rights for LGBT people is nothing short of a war against sexual minorities.

"[Uganda's bill is] an omnibus violation of the human rights of sexual minorities... a veritable charter of malice," Lewis said. No mincing words there, that's for sure.

Bottom line? Laws that criminalize homosexuality not only make the protection of global health that much harder, they often are an impetus to human rights violations. Ban Ki-moon gets it. Sadly, at least 80 countries still don't.


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