Ban Ki-moon praises Indian actors, activists for gay rights support

United Nations: Amid the launch of the first ever Bollywood-style UN video on gay rights, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon applauded India`s human rights activists and film fraternity for standing up for the rights of lesbians and gays.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights launched the Bollywood-style music video in Mumbai yesterday to promote its `Free & Equal campaign` for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) equality.

In his message for the launch, Ban expressed his support for the campaign and his solidarity with India`s LGBT community.

The two-and-a-half-minute clip stars Bollywood actress and former Miss India Celina Jaitly, who makes her musical debut in the clip and was last year nominated by the High Commissioner for Human Rights as a UN Equality Champion in recognition of her support for LGBT rights.

"I am honoured by the presence of leading stars of Indian cinema and influential Indian human rights activists who have come today to help us unveil the first ever United Nations Bollywood-style music video, which we hope will carry a message of equality to millions of people," Ban said in his message.

"And I especially thank the activists present for standing up for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people across India. I applaud and support all of you on behalf of the entire United Nations," he said.

Ban said everywhere he goes he calls for the immediate repeal of all laws criminalising consensual, adult same-sex relationships, saying "these laws violate basic rights to privacy and to freedom from discrimination. Whether enforced or not, they actively encourage intolerant attitudes -- giving homophobia a State seal of approval."

He appealed for an end to the discrimination, abuse and violent attacks that characterise this deplorable human tragedy.

"Today the United Nations and our partners issue a call
to action: for an end to criminalisation, for effective legal protection against discrimination, and for all members of our human family to be treated with the compassion, respect and dignity they deserve."
He said stigma and intolerance force millions of people of the LGBT community to live in fear, shame and hiding.?
"The Free & Equal campaign provides an opportunity for all of us ? leaders, artists, journalists, activists, teachers, parents and every individual of conscience to take an active stand against this prejudice and support our LGBT colleagues, neighbours, friends and family members," he added.

Jaitly was joined at the launch of the music video by Indian actor Imran Khan, Humsafar Trust founder Ashok Row Kavi, transgender rights activist Laxmi Tripathi, commentator and comedian Cyrus Broacha, and UN representatives.

The video release and press conference marks the Free and Equal campaign's launch in India, following its inaugural kick off last year in South Africa. The video titled 'Welcome' tells the story of a young man who brings his boyfriend home to meet his family for the first time.

The video's dance sequences were choreographed by Longi of 'Slumdog Millionaire' fame.

Commenting on the launch, UN High Commissioner for Human rights Navi Pillay said in the past few months, India had witnessed an unprecedented level of public debate relating to the rights of LGBT people.

"As awareness grows, attitudes will change. We need to do all we can to hasten change by challenging the myths and misinformation that get in the way of understanding. That is what this campaign is all about," said Pillay.

"LGBT people have historically been marginalised and subjected to discrimination and violence in India, as elsewhere. But change is coming."

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