US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has hailed the passing of a UN resolution calling for the recognition of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans) people as a “historic moment.”

The UN Human Rights Council for the first time passed a resolution which focuses specifically on sexual orientation and gender identity.

The resolution, which passed 23-19 with three abstentions, “affirms that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights and that everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms … without distinction of any kind”.

“This represents a historic moment to highlight the human rights abuses and violations that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people face around the world based solely on who they are and whom they love,” Mrs Clinton said in a statement.

“Today’s landmark resolution affirms that human rights are universal. People cannot be excluded from protection simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” she said.

Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe, US representative to the UN Human Rights Council said: “Today, we have taken an important step forward in our recognition that human rights are indeed universal. We recognize that violence against a person because of who they are is wrong. The right to choose who we love, and with whom to share our lives – is sacred. Further, we send the unequivocal message that each human being deserves equal protection from violence and discrimination.”

The resolution was introduced by South Africa, which was accused by some other African countries of siding with the west over the issue.

South Africa, which recently pledged to tackle an epidemic of ‘corrective rapes’ on lesbians, was attacked by the Nigerian envoy for “breaking the tradition of African group”. The envoy also claimed that 90 per cent of South Africans oppose the resolution.

More opposition came from some Arab states and the Pakistan envoy, speaking on behalf of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, said the countries were “disturbed on the attempt to focus on certain persons on the grounds of their sexual interest and behaviour”.

Introducing the resolution, South Africa said that it “does not seek to impose values on states, but seeks to initiate dialogue”.

The resolution also commissions a study on anti-gay discrimination and violence and establishes a panel to look at the issues.