Deputy Premier defends gay rights at the UN

Belgium's International Development Minister Alexander De Croo seized the opportunity of a speech before the UN's Commission on Population and Development to insist on the need to observe the rights of women, gays, lesbians and transgenders. Belgium currently chairs this UN body.

Mr De Croo said women had a right to education, girls had a right not to be forced into marriage and young women also had the right to take responsibility for their sexual and reproductive health.

The Deputy Premier added: "Young people need access to information to make informed choices. He pointed to the example of Belgian schools where pupils receive education in sexual matters and noted that as a result of free anti-conception Belgium has one of the lowest levels of teen pregnancies and maternal mortality in the world.

Mr De Croo also cited Belgium as an example when it came to the rights of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders, though he doesn't seem to have mentioned people who are intersex.

He reminded his audience that together with the Netherlands Belgium was one of the first countries in the world to legislate in favour of gay marriage.

"Discrimination and repression of LGBTs has far-reaching ramifications. Discrimination obstructs HIV prevention and access to treatment that results in the spread of HIV and other STIs. "How can we ever guarantee efficient sexual health policies when certain groups are kept outside society on purpose?" he wondered.

The Deputy Premier also stressed the need for quality education emphasising the potential of each individual including girls. He added that violence triggered by an individual's gender was unacceptable.

The UN is currently drawing up new Sustainable Development Goals to succeed the Millennium Goals that are about to expire. Within this framework Belgium is pressing for greater sexual and reproductive health rights.