In his first address to the United Nations General Assembly, French President François Hollande urged the UN to decriminalize homosexuality around the world. Homosexuality is currently illegal in 76 countries and punishable by death in eight, including Iran, Mauritania, Sudan, Saudia Arabia and Yemen.

In his fifteen-minute speech, Hollande said that France must lead the UN’s fight for “fundamental [human] freedoms, which is not merely its fight but its honour.” Gay Star News reports:

“This is the reason for which the France will continue to conduct all these struggles: for the abolition of the death penalty, for women’s rights to equality and dignity, for the universal decriminalization of homosexuality, which should not be recognised as a crime but, on the contrary, recognised as a [sexual] orientation.

“All members countries have the obligation to guarantee the security of their citizens, and if one nation does adhere to this obligation, it is then for us, the United Nations, to engage it with the necessary means, to put it in its place.

“These are the issues that France will lead and defend in the United Nations. I say this with gravity, when there is paralysis, inertion, inaction, then injustice and intolerance can find their place.

“What I want this assembly to understand, is that we need to react, to take our responsibility … always react for sake of the people, together, this is the message of France.”

Though this is reportedly the first time a head of state has spoken out about homosexuality at the UN General Assembly, in 2008, Ambassador Jorge Argüello of Argentina read the General Assembly’s first declaration on gay rights. Spearheaded by France’s then Secretary of State for Human Rights, Rama Yade, the declaration also called for decriminalization of homosexuality and was co-signed by 66 countires.

The United States, as well as China, Russia, the Roman Catholic Church and members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, refused to support the measure. According to The New York Times:

The official American position was based on highly technical legal grounds. The text, by using terminology like “without distinction of any kind,” was too broad because it might be interpreted as an attempt by the federal government to override states’ rights on issues like gay marriage, American diplomats and legal experts said.

A staunch supporter of same-sex marriage and adoption, Hollande’s words have prompted speculation that France will lead the crusade for global decriminalization of homosexuality. The French government previously promised to legalize gay marriage by as early as 2013 with the introduction of legislation next month.

Photo: Wikipedia/Jean-Marc Ayrault

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