Considering varied cultural, religious and traditional beliefs across the world, the United Nations (UN) has no wish to force any member country to adopt pro-gay laws or legalise same sex marriages, UN resident coordinator Richard Dictus has said.
Dictus was addressing journalists in Lilongwe on Tuesday ahead of a workshop on findings and recommendations from an assessment of the Legal and Policy Environment for HIV and Aids in Malawi which starts Wednesday.
However, Dictus, who is also UNDP resident representative, said it is up to individual countries to move with changing times and align their cultural, traditional and religious beliefs with acceptable human rights standards.
â€œThe UN cannot force any country to adopt laws that recognise sex workers or men who have sex with men. However, no society is stagnant and no culture or tradition is carved in stone, but at the speed and direction that the world is changing, it is up to countries to move forward,â€ he said.
Dictus said in the light of HIV and Aids, cultural, traditional and religious beliefs should not be an excuse for countries to have discriminatory laws and policies against minority groups as they affect the rest of the population.
â€œNo one can tell you what to do and at what speed you can go. The process can take five to 10 years or even longerâ€¦ These punitive laws drive people underground since they have no access to care and no access to legal recourse. This disfranchisement even affects other people in society,â€ he said.
Dictus said going by the assessment findings, stigma and human rights violations remain a challenge to an effectiveÂ HIV and Aids response; hence, a need to review various laws and the enactment of HIV specific laws.
Dictus said the briefing was aimed at ensuring that journalists have a clear understanding of real issues and how best to put them into context.