ADDIS ABABA - In an unusual warning by the world body, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged African leaders Sunday, January 29, to respect gay rights.
"One form of discrimination ignored or even sanctioned by many states for too long has been discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity," Ban said at an African Union summit in the Ethiopian capital, reported Agence France-Presse (AFP).
"It prompted governments to treat people as second-class citizens or even criminals."
Homosexuality is illegal in most African countries.
South Africa is the only African state that recognizes gay rights and same-sex marriage, at least on paper.
"Confronting these discriminations is a challenge, but we must not give up on the ideas of the universal declaration (of human rights)," Ban told the African delegates.
The UN chief said that the Arab Spring, which forced several Arab leaders out of power last year, proved that repression is dead.
Police power is no match to people power seeking dignity and justice, he said.
Sunday's summit is the first since the killing of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, who played a key role in forming the African Union.
Outgoing African Union chairman TedoroObiang Nguema has complained of foreign pressures on the continent to recognize rights of the homosexuals.
"Africa should not be questioned with regards to democracy, human rights, governance and transparency in public administration," he told the summit before Ban's speech.
African leaders have been under mounting pressures from Western countries to recognize gay rights.
Last November, British Prime Minister David Cameron threatened to cut aid to countries that deny gay rights.
African leaders say that homosexuality is alien to their culture.
Same-sex relationship and marriage are totally prohibited in Islam as well as in all divine religions.Islam teaches that believers should neither do the obscene acts, nor in any way indulge in their propagation.