Pope Benedict XVI, US President George W. Bush and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have undermined human rights by actively promoting prejudice against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

Human Rights Watch named them today in its annual “hall of shame” to mark the International Day Against Homophobia.

On May 17th, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender groups in more than 50 countries will commemorate the International Day Against Homophobia.

The initiative launched in 2005 that commemorates the day in 1990 when the World Health Organisation removed homosexuality from its roster of disorders.

“This ‘hall of shame’ does not claim to include the worst offenders, but it highlights leaders who have lent their authority to denying basic human rights,” said Scott Long, director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights Programme at Human Rights Watch.

“President Bush and Pope Benedict both speak of human dignity, but their homophobic words and actions undermine families and endanger health.”

Leaders named to the “Hall of Shame” for their actions in the past year are:

1 Pope Benedict XVI: for undermining families. The leader of the Holy See has gone well beyond expressing the Church’s theological views on homosexuality.

2 US President George W. Bush: for jeopardizing public health. The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) requires that one-third of HIV-prevention spending go to so-called “abstinence-until-marriage” programmes.

3 Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: for creating public and private scandals. President Ahmadinejad has overseen a widening campaign to “counter public immorality,” arbitrarily arresting thousands of Iranians for dressing or behaving differently.

4 Roman Giertych, Polish Minister of Education and Deputy Prime Minister: for endangering children. Part of a right-wing government that has made homophobia a centerpiece of policy.

5 Bienvenido Abante, Member of the Philippine House of Representatives: for trying to force his sexual orientation on others. Representative Abante has urged that homosexuals be “cured” and turned into heterosexuals.

“Homophobia endangers basic human rights, and we should all be concerned by it,” said Mr Long.

“Governments devalue families when they deny any family recognition. They endanger children when they silence any child.”