Markus Löning, the Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid at the Federal Foreign Office, has issued the following statement in Berlin to mark the International Day Against Homophobia:
I have been following with great concern the way in which people have been pushed to the margins of society due to their sexual identity. Fortunately, homosexuality is now recognized in many countries around the world. In others, however, gay men and lesbians are discriminated against and persecuted. Homosexuality is criminalized in more than 80 countries, and it is even punishable by death in some states!
Exclusion on the grounds of sexual orientation has no place in our society. Every individual must be allowed to decide for themselves how they live their lives and what their sexual orientation is. I am therefore especially pleased about positive developments, for example President Obama’s decision to speak out in favour of same-sex marriages.
I am particularly alarmed, however, by the legislation recently introduced in St. Petersburg which makes “propagandizing male and female homosexuality, bisexualism and transgenderism among minors” a punishable offence. This is contrary to our values and to Russia’s obligations under international law. I call upon the parliament in St. Petersburg and the Russian authorities to repeal this legislation, which constitutes a violation against the European Convention on Human Rights!
The fight against the criminalization and discrimination of homosexuality is a core human rights concern. This is not about special rights but, rather, about the same universal rights to which every individual is entitled. Gay men and lesbians are not second-class individuals.
Today on the International Day Against Homophobia, I appeal to political leaders in every country around the world to abolish all forms of discrimination based on sexual orientation!
Human rights include the right to free sexual orientation. Nevertheless, homosexuality is a criminal offence in around 80 countries; in Afghanistan, Iran, Yemen, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, the Sudan and the United Arab Emirates, same‑sex acts can even incur the death penalty on the basis of the Sharia, since it prohibits extra-marital sexual relations.
Despite protests in Russia and from abroad, laws have been passed recently in the Russian regions of St. Petersburg, Leningrad oblast, Kostroma, Arkhangelsk, Ryazan and Novosibirsk making the public display or support of homosexuality, “propaganda for homosexuality”, punishable by a fine. There have been several arrests in St. Petersburgsince the adoption of the law. The German Government is following this matter with great concern and has repeatedly expressed its view to the Russian side that the law fosters discrimination and intolerance and thus contravenes the principles which Russia has voluntarily undertaken to respect in its own constitution and through its membership of the Council of Europe.