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Human Rights

African, Arab delegates walk out of UN gay rights meeting

Representatives of African and Arab states have walked out of a UN Human Rights Council meeting on gay rights. The protest followed an appeal to tackle persecution of the gay community worldwide.

African and Arab representatives walked out of a UN Human Rights Council debate on Wednesday in objection to a call for more protection by governments for gays and lesbians.

Delegates from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) as well as members of the council's Arab and African groups highlighted their opposition by walking out of the meeting in Geneva.

The protest came after UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told the session that gays and lesbians deserved protection by all governments.

"We see a pattern of violence and discrimination directed at people just because they are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender," Ban said in a video message to the panel.

Speaking before the walkout for the 57-nation OIC, a Pakistan envoy described homosexuality as "licentious behavior" contrary to the teachings of Islam.

"From this perspective, legitimizing homosexuality and other personal sexual behaviors in the name of sexual orientation is unacceptable to the OIC," he added.

Mauritania's representative, from the Arab group, said attempts to impose "the controversial topic of sexual orientation" would undermine discussion of other human rights problems.

Nigeria's delegate also left the chamber, claiming that none of its citizens faced violence because of sexual orientation. Gay rights groups in the country say attacks on gay men and lesbians have become commonplace.

A report compiled for UN human rights chief Navi Pillay said 76 countries among the UN's 192 members had laws that criminalized same-sex sexual behavior. At least five of those provide for the death penalty, with efforts underway in Uganda to introduce the same punishment.

rc/ncy (AFP, Reuters)