6 August 2003


United Nations Cannot Condone Persecution, Discrimination "On Any Grounds", Says Secretary-General, Following Headquarters Event on Rights of Lesbians, Gays

NEW YORK, 5 August (UN Headquarters) -- The following was issued today by the Spokesman for Secretary-General Kofi Annan:

The Secretary-General was glad to be able to attend part of an event held yesterday in the Dag Hammarskjöld Auditorium, focused on protecting the rights of lesbians and gays around the world.  He believes that the United Nations cannot condone any persecution of, or discrimination against, people on any grounds, and recalls article 2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which says that "Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind."

On the specific issue of the rights of gay and lesbian staff members, the Secretary-General intends to act on the Organization's long-established principle that matters of personal status should be determined by reference to the law of the staff member's nationality.

On the issue of same sex marriage, his personal view, as stated in last week's press conference, is "that individuals should be allowed to make their own choices and that we should be careful not to draw conclusions, or adopt prejudicial attitudes, towards people for their choices and preferences".  However, he recognizes that there is a wide range of opinion on the issue among Member States, with very strong feelings on both sides of the argument, and he does not believe this is something the United Nations should get involved in.

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