Yesterday a statement was read at the United Nations General Assembly in New York reiterating the universal human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people.

66 nations signed the joint statement, among them all 27 EU member states.

South Africa and the United States of America did not support the initiative.

The statement, which was a French initiative, was read out by Argentina’s Ambassador the UN.

It does not create new rights and is not legally binding but instead builds on similar past initiatives.

It affirms the principle of universality: that all human beings, irrespective of their sexual orientation or gender identity, are entitled to equal dignity and respect.

No-one should be subject to violence, harassment, discrimination or abuse, solely because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Louis Georges Tin, the founder of the Inernational Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO), is behind the universal decriminalisation declaration.

He met with Rama Yade, France’s minister of human rights and foreign affairs, earlier this year.

In September she confirmed that she would appeal at the United Nations for the universal decriminalisation of homosexuality. The statement quickly became an international effort.

A cross-regional group of states coordinated the drafting, including Brazil, Croatia, France, Gabon, Japan, the Netherlands, and Norway.

The statement condemned killings, torture, arbitrary arrest, and “deprivation of economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to health.”

The participating countries urged all nations to “promote and protect human rights of all persons, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity,” and to end all criminal penalties against people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

According to calculations by ILGA (the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex Association) and other organisations, more than six dozen countries still have laws against consensual sex between adults of the same sex.

The UN Human Rights Committee, which interprets the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), a core UN treaty, held in a historic 1994 decision that such laws are rights violations – and that human rights law forbids discrimination based on sexual orientation.

In 2006 IDAHO initiated a global campaign to end the criminalisation of same-sex relationships and secured the support of dozens of international public figures, ranging from Nobel Prize winners to writers, clergy,
actors, musicans and academics.

“To decriminalise homosexuality worldwide is a battle for human rights,” Mr Tin said.

“IDAHO has worked hard for two years to promote this issue. For us, the UN statement is a great achievement.

“I want to thank the many other people and organisations who have worked with us since the beginning, and more recently. I also want to remind everyone that ending the criminalisation of same-sex love will be a long, hard battle. To love is not a crime.”

The 66 countries that signed the joint UN statement for LGBT human rights are:

Albania, Andorra, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria

Belgium, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria

Canada, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chile, Colombia, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic

Denmark, Ecuador, Estonia, Finland, France, Gabon, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guinea-Bissau

Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg

Malta, Mauritius, Mexico, Montenegro, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway

Paraguay, Poland, Portugal, Romania

San Marino, Sao Tome and Principe, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland

The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Timor-Leste, the United Kingdom, Uruguay, and Venezuela.

UK-based gay rights activist Peter Tatchell said:

“This was history in the making. Totally ground-breaking. It is the first time that the UN General Assembly has been presented with a statement in support of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT)
human rights.

“Securing this statement at the UN is the result of an inspiring collective global effort by many LGBT and human rights organisations. Our collaboration, unity and solidarity have won us this success.”

“As well as IDAHO, I pay tribute to the contribution and lobbying of Amnesty International; ARC International; Center for Women’s Global Leadership; COC Netherlands; Global Rights; Human Rights Watch;
International Committee for IDAHO (the International Day Against Homophobia); International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC); International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and
Intersex Association (ILGA); International Service for Human Rights; Pan Africa ILGA; and Public Services International.

“The UN statement goes much further than seeking the decriminalisation of same-sex acts.

“It condemns all human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity, urges countries to protect the human rights of LGBT people and to bring to justice those who violate these rights, and calls for human rights defenders who oppose homophobic and transphobic victimisation to be allowed to carry out
their advocacy and humanitarian work unimpeded.”

The New York Times reports that “nearly 60 nations” backed a counter statement read by Syria that claimed the gay rights “threatened to undermine the international framework of human rights by trying to normalise pedophilia, among other acts.”

LGBT rights group ARC-International said:

“The signatories overcame intense opposition from a group of governments that regularly try to block UN attention to violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

“Only 57 states signed an alternative text promoted by the Organisation of the Islamic Conference.

“While affirming the “principles of non-discrimination and equality,” they claimed that universal human rights did not include “the attempt to focus on the rights of certain persons.”