New Delhi: Opposing the criminalisation of homosexuality, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon today said that doing so breeds intolerance by violating basic rights to privacy and freedom.
He also said that the fight for human equality must be inclusive and should set aside all differences, including those "based on sexual orientation".
"I staunchly oppose criminalisation of homosexuality. They violate the basic rights to privacy and freedom. These laws breed intolerance.
"We have to fight for the equality of all members of our human family regardless of any differences, including sexual orientation," Ban said here at an event to mark the 70th anniversary of United Nations.
'The Future We Want' event was attended by Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi, cricketer Sachin Tendulkar and actors Sharmila Tagore and Nandita Das.
Pointing out that India as a country had made great
progress but had "the highest number of deaths among children under the age of 5", the UN Secretary General urged the government to invest in women and children's issues and empower them.
Satyarthi, who was awarded the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize, said that without total abolition of child labour, it would not possible to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.
"I'm concerned that the number of child slaves in the world, which stands at five-and-a-half million, is not declining despite a decline in child labour I have given a petition signed by five lakh five thousand people around the world to the Secretary General to end child slavery," Satyarthi said.
Tendulkar, who is a UN Goodwill ambassador, spoke about how the country should be prepared to take steps to end child slavery.
Likening children to unpolished diamonds, Tendulkar said, "It is up to us to make them into priceless diamonds."
He recollected his impressions about playing cricket with visually-impaired children and said there were millions in the country who do not get the childhood they deserve.
Citing the recent sterilisation deaths in Chhattisgarh, Unicef national ambassador, Sharmila Tagore said, "We have to ensure safe delivery that goes beyond institutional delivery. We need to go to the interiors, sensitise nurses and provide infrastructure to doctors.
"We have to evolve a way of communicating by involving local opinion leaders."
The event was also attended by members of the National Progressive School Network, a network of 180 schools in the country, besides members of various associates of UN.
"I am very grateful for celebs like Celina Jaitly and Imran Khan, who have reached millions with their message of equality," Ban said.
Terming Article 377 "as archaic", Das, a celebrity advocate for Unicef, urged the UN Secretary General to "put pressure on the government" to repeal the law.
"I hope you can put pressure on our government to repeal the archaic law of Art. 377 which criminalises homosexuality," she said.
The discussion saw Ban commending various initiatives of the government like ensuring vaccine coverage and building a toilet in every household and school by 2019.
The UN Secretary General had arrived here on Saturday on a four-day visit. He also attended the Vibrant Gujarat Summit in Gandhinagar.