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Gays, lesbians to pressure UN on recognition

Written by: Staff

Geneva, Mar 21: A global body representing gays and lesbians said it would seek to bring pressure on the United Nations for full recognition of their human rights at a conference in Geneva next week.

The Brussels-based International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA) yesterday said the conference, held every two years in different locations, would be addressed by delegates from all continents, including countries where homosexuality is banned.

''How long can lesbian and gay rights be ignored at the U.N.? That is one of the key questions we will be addressing,'' said a spokesman for ILGA, Stephen Barris. ''We will be discussing how we can get an official voice at last.'' The conference will coincide with next week's planned session of the U.N. Human Rights Commission, where last year a draft resolution on the gay rights issue presented by Brazil and backed by over 40 countries was dropped amid fierce opposition.

But the opening of the six-week annual session of the 53-nation Commission, due to be replaced this year by a new Human Rights Council, has already been postponed twice and diplomats said it may only meet for a few days at most.

The 2005 Brazilian draft -- designed to formally include freedom of sexual orientation among the human rights that the Commission was set up 50 years ago to defend -- was strongly condemned by Muslim and African countries.

In January, a U.N. committee in New York handling accreditation to the world body for non-governmental organisations (NGOs) rejected an application from ILGA without debate amid similar opposition.

ILGA, founded in 1978 and uniting 500 groups in dozens of countries, said the problems for gays and lesbians in African and Islamic countries would top the agenda next week. There will be delegates from both regions.

A special session would be held for activists and organisations ''who seek to organise courageously in the Islamic world,'' a statement from the organisation said. But it indicated it would aim to avoid head-on confrontation.

''ILGA is aware of the increasing Islamophobia in the West and has always been careful to differentiate itself from those activists who failed to be sensitive on this issue,'' the statement declared.

Africa, it said, would be central to the conference, with special attention to developments in Nigeria -- where gays and lesbians are fiercely condemned both in the mainly Muslim north and the largely Christian south.

Also attending will be representatives of the U.N.'s World Health Organisation for discussion on AIDS prevention, and of global labour union bodies for debates on discrimination against gays and lesbians in the workplace.


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