An historic session on gay rights at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva was marred Wednesday by a walkout.
The panel discussion was opened with a video address from the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon.
"To those who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, let me say: You are not alone," the secretary-general said. "Your struggle for an end to violence and discrimination is a shared struggle. Any attack on you, is an attack on the universal values the United Nations and I have sworn to uphold. Today, I stand with you and I call upon all countries and people to stand with you, too. A historic shift is underway. More states see the gravity of the problem. … We must tackle the violence, decriminalize consensual same-sex relationships, ban discrimination and educate the public." (
High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay in her opening statement urged countries to dedicate themselves to ending violence and discrimination against people, irrespective of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The panel convened to consider Pillay's report documenting discriminatory laws and acts of violence against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.
Seventy-six of the UN's 192 member countries criminalize gay sex and in at least five countries offenders could be put to death.
According to Radio Free Europe, Pakistan's Saeed Sarwar rejected gay rights.
"Licentious behavior promoted under the so-called concept of sexual orientation is against the fundamental teachings of various religions, including Islam," Sarwar said. "From this perspective, legitimizing homosexuality and other personal sexual behaviors in the name of sexual orientation is unacceptable."
Most Arab and African nations walked out of the session after Sawar urged the council not to revisit the subject in the future.