ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia – African nations need to stop treating LGBT people as “second-class citizens or even criminals,” UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Sunday at a gathering of the continent’s top leaders.
The speech, given at an African Union summit in Ethiopia’s capital, did not exclusively focus on gay rights but was part of a broader commentary on issues facing the continent’s nations.
Ban, who has been at the forefront of the United Nations’ efforts to advance LGBT rights across the globe, told the African leaders that sexual-orientation discrimination had “been ignored or even sanctioned by many states for far too long.”
Many African nations number among the 76 countries around the world where it is illegal to be gay. Many religions practiced in Africa, including Muslim and Christian faiths, condemn homosexuality.
Ban said laws that criminalize homosexuality violate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and he urged nations to ban those laws.
"Let me mention one form of discrimination that has been ignored or even sanctioned by many states for far too long, discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. This has prompted some governments to treat people as second-class citizens, or even criminals. Confronting this discrimination is a challenge. But we must live up to the ideals of the Universal Declaration," Ban said.
The speech got stony silence from the more than 30 African leaders in attendance.