The Foreign Minister of the Netherlands today told an international meeting that gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans people deserve equal rights.

Maxime Verhagen made his remarks at the opening session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva.

In a wide-ranging speech he highlighted the rights of “children in Uzbekistan picking cotton for long hours for little or no wages” and proposed the EU move to ban on the sale of goods that have been produced “using any form of slavery or practice similar to slavery, such as debt bondage, serfdom or forced or compulsory labour.”

“This year marks the sixtieth anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” he said.

“This unique document sets down the ‘values of the world’: justice, equality, solidarity, humanity and liberty.

“Human rights reflect these values; they are what bind us together in this world. Human rights are not a Western invention.

“In 85 countries, homosexuality is still punishable by law and people can be prosecuted because of their sexual orientation.

“In five countries in the world, Afghanistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen, consensual sexual acts by people of the same sex are even capital crimes.

“There is no excuse for the humiliation and exclusion of homosexual people, let alone for imposing the death penalty on them.

“Decriminalising homosexuality and countering discrimination based on sexual orientation are priorities within Dutch human rights policy.

“The Dutch government subscribes to the Yogyakarta Principles on the application of international human rights law in relation to sexual orientation and gender identity.

“I call upon other states to embrace these principles as well.

“Tradition, culture or religion must never be used to justify the violation of human rights.”

The Yogyakarta Principles, named after the Indonesian city whey they were adopted, were launched in March 2007 by 29 international human rights experts at a UN Human Rights Council session.

They address issues such as rape and gender-based violence, extrajudicial executions, torture and medical abuses, repressions of free speech and discrimination in the public services.

Last year 54 member states of the UN Human Rights Council asked the council to act against violations of the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

The UN Human Rights Council was established in 2006, and is holding its seventh session in Geneva from 3rd to 28th March.