Homosexuality laws divide the United Nations.

Publish Date: 19/12/2008

United Nations LogoThe United Nation's 192 member states, have been called on to sign a declaration sponsored by France and the Netherlands, demanding an end to legal punishment based on sexual orientation.

This month marks the 60th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the French and Dutch governments are using this to highlight discrimination that still exists against homosexuals.

According to the BBC, their statement calls for an end to the execution, arrest and detention of homosexuals and trans people. It is the first time that a statement condemning abuse against lesbians, gays and bisexuals has been presented in the General Assembly.

66 countries signed the declaration, while sixty other countries rejected it, saying that laws on homosexuality should be left to individual countries.

Syria spoke on behalf of the 60 countries rejecting the declaration, arguing that domestic laws should be respected, and claiming the declaration could legitimise deplorable acts.

Homosexuality is still a criminal offence in more than 80 countries, while in at least seven nations, including Saudi Arabia, sex between men can be punished with the death penalty.

The US was the only major Western nation not to sign the declaration. Despite being home to gay capitals such as San Francisco, in thirty US states it is still legal for employers to fire their employees on the grounds of their sexual orientation.

There have been numerous high profile stories this year regarding LGBT asylum seekers who have come to the region to seek safety. Prossy Kakooza was granted asylum in Manchester earlier this year, after suffering dreadful ill treatment in her homeland of Uganda on the grounds of her sexual orientation.

France and the Netherlands hope more countries will sign up to the declaration in the future.

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