The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) joins our many colleagues around the world in using this day—May 17, the International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO)—to further raise the visibility of our struggles around the world to combat and eliminate the tragic consequences of homophobia.
IDAHO has a special significance this year, as it is the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights—the first international document to define a universally applicable and inalienable set of human rights that are the entitlement of every person, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression. The entitlement of everyone—including sexual minorities—to equality, freedom of expression, and freedom from abuse is outlined in this document and the international treaties that have been signed by governments around the world.
When the Universal Declaration was adopted in 1948 it represented the aspirations of governments and people around the world to fully enshrine the human entitlement to dignity and respect within the laws and practices of the worlds’ nations. Human rights laws and documents provide the framework and foundation for all people, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) communities, to challenge the torture, abuse, discrimination, and criminal status that so many of us face. The right to be free from discrimination, the right to be free from torture and arbitrary detention, the right to health care and education, and the rights of women and children are among the many rights that LGBTI people have as human beings.
Over the past 60 years, these human rights laws have opened the door to unprecedented visibility, demands for justice, and lasting change in the status of LGBTI people in significant parts of the world. The South African constitution stands as a beacon to the rest of the world, ensuring that no person, regardless of race, sex or sexual orientation, shall be treated as a second-class citizen under the law. Many European governments have reformed their own laws to ban discrimination against LGBTI people. And many of their representatives, as well as the representatives of Latin American governments such as Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay, openly challenge homophobia in the United Nations and other international forums. More than two dozen human rights experts from around the world issued a consensus document—the Yogyakarta Principles—outlining the range of rights to which LGBTI people everywhere are entitled under international law. The emergence of the internet has enabled once disparate LGBTI groups and people to connect with one another and support each other’s efforts to challenge homophobia and human rights violations.
Yet despite this progress, there is much work left to do. More than 80 countries around the world criminalize homosexuality, and in some places the threat of execution still lingers. Rampant violence against LGBTI people often goes uninvestigated and unpunished by the authorities. Most LGBTI people still confront discrimination in their workplaces and limited access to healthcare. And the family structures that LGBTI people form remain completely unrecognized in many parts of the world. Homophobia is a persistent and poisonous force that impedes the struggle for justice and equality for LGBTI people on every level.
Recognizing the challenges that lie ahead, IGLHRC will use the International Day Against Homophobia to launch a set of initiatives and activities in partnership with LGBTI groups and allies related to two of IGLHRC’s top priorities: 1) Challenging the specific forms of violence and discrimination faced by lesbian, bisexual and transgender women, and 2) Ending the criminalization of homosexuality and the abuse related to arbitrary arrests of LGBTI people.
Participation in the 16 Days of Activism (November 25-December 10, 2008)
The 16 Days of Activism is an international campaign spearheaded by the Center for Women’s Global Leadership and designed to draw attention to the fact that violence against women is a human rights violation. IGLHRC urges LGBTI groups everywhere to participate in the 16 Days of Activism Campaigns. Information is available at http://www.cwgl.rutgers.edu/16days/home.html.
IGLHRC, along with its partners in Asia, Latin America and Africa, will join in this campaign in the following ways:
- Asia: IGLHRC is working with Asian lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LBT) activists throughout the region to host a traveling banner and a series of public events designed to draw attention to violence against LBT women. The events will be filmed and will include personal stories of violence. The banner and public events will kick off in Thailand and culminate in Yogyakarta, Indonesia on December 10, 2008—the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Along the way, women will discuss the use of the Yogyakarta Principles in combating domestic and social violence faced by women who defy cultural norms related to marriage, children, and family. To participate in this transregional activity, contact IGLHRC’s Regional Coordinator for Asia and the Pacific Islands, Grace Poore, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Latin America: In June, IGLHRC will host panels and public presentations in Costa Rica, Honduras, and Nicaragua in conjunction with the release of its report from its 2007 Human Rights Advocacy Institute for lesbian and bisexual women leaders from Central America and the Caribbean. At each panel, lesbian activists will address the application of the Yogyakarta Principles to their work in the region. In November 2008, IGLHRC will partner with Catholics for a Free Choice in hosting its 3rd Latin America and Caribbean Human Rights Advocacy Institute. This Institute of 20 participants will address religious fundamentalism and its specific impact on lesbian, bisexual and transgender women. A public statement from the participants will be released on December 10, international human rights day. For more information, contact IGLHRC’s Latin America and Caribbean Program Associate, Rosa M. Posa Guinea, email@example.com.
- Africa: IGLHRC will draw attention to the murders of lesbians in Africa through a poster advertisement to be placed in newspapers and circulated on the internet throughout the 16 Days of Activism. The advertisements will demand that authorities step up to their responsibility to investigate these murders and speak out forcefully in condemning them. For further information, contact IGLHRC’s Senior Regional Specialist for Africa, Cary Alan Johnson, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ending Criminalization and Arbitrary Arrest
This year, IGLHRC will launch a series of initiatives related to its foremost goal of ending the criminalization of homosexuality and the human rights abuses that accompany detention and arrests. IGLHRC’s primary strategy is to concentrate on the states that are members of the British Commonwealth, whose laws criminalizing sexuality are vestiges of their colonial histories. These countries include many former British colonies in Asia, the Caribbean and Africa. IGLHRC will work closely with Commonwealth members who have repealed their sodomy laws, as well as with those that have not. Each year on May 17, IGLHRC will report on the tangible progress made on decriminalization. For more information, contact IGLHRC’s Latin America and Caribbean Regional Coordinator, Marcelo Ferreyra, email@example.com.
Published on May 16, 2008 | OutRight Action International an LGBT human rights organization