JOHANNESBURG, South Africa —UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon told African leaders on Sunday that they must respect gay rights.
Ban, speaking at the African Union summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, said that discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity has been "ignored or even sanctioned by many states for far too long."
"It prompted governments to treat people as second-class citizens or even criminals," he told AU leaders, according to Agence France-Presse.
"Confronting these discriminations is a challenge, but we must not give up on the ideas of the universal declaration [of human rights]," he said.
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Some African leaders have lashed out at previous calls for gay rights to be respected on the continent, claiming that homosexuality is "un-African."
British Prime Minister David Cameron, at last year's summit of Commonwealth nations, said that countries receiving British aid should respect human rights, including gay rights.
In response, Ugandan officials accused the UK of "bullying," while Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe, notorious for his anti-gay rants, said Cameron was "satanic."
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Homosexual acts are illegal in most African countries. An exception is South Africa, where same-sex marriage is allowed and gay rights are protected in the country's progressive post-apartheid constitution.
But gays and lesbians in South Africa's townships continue to face discrimination and brutal violence.
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