5-17-2011By Paul LeGendre
Director, Fighting Discrimination Program
Twenty-one years ago the World Health Organization excluded homosexuality from its list of officially recognized mental illnesses. Today, the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia is marked around the world today to commemorate that landmark decision, and to raise awareness about the continued rights abuses – in the form, among others, of bias-motivated violence and criminalization – still faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) individuals.
Human Rights First stands together with advocates for the rights of LGBTI individuals in their quest for equality. We continue to urge governments around the world to decriminalize consensual same-sex relations, to respond to homophobic violence against LGBTI persons, and to ensure their right to freedom of assembly. We urge public officials to refrain from feeding popular homophobic attitudes and call out those that do.
The challenges remain daunting, but it is worth remembering too where there has been progress and where the rights community has come together to confront homophobia and transphobia. A few noteworthy moments from the past year include:
- “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” is Repealed in the U.S. HRF’s Dixon Osborn, who founded the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network in 1993, said it best: “the repeal of DADT and implementation of nondiscrimination policies by the Pentagon will be judged among the pantheon of civil rights advances in our country.”
- Eighty-five countries call for an end to violence and human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Advancing gay rights at the U.N. has been extremely difficult, but the number of countries who have recognized fundamental principles has grown significantly. And senior UN leaders have been unequivocal and firm in recognizing gay rights as fundamental human rights.
- Uganda: the Struggle Continues. The tragic murder of David Kato shocked the world in January, and members of parliament tried to advance the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Yet courageous Ugandan rights activists stood up to homophobia and discriminatory legislation in Uganda and led an international campaign against the bill, which was shelved again. Watch our Youtube Video for Julius Kaggwa, the Ugandan activist who received HRF’s Human Rights Award in 2010, explain the negative role of influential U.S. pastors in this fight.
- Better Protection for LGBTI Refugees. Thousands of people from all corners of the world are forced to flee their homes on account of their sexual orientation or gender identity. This issue is relatively new to policy makers and resettlement organizations alike, but the particular concerns of LGBTI refugees have begun to garner more attention.
- Pride Parades and Events: Growing and Better Protected. Last year, we once again urged the 56 European and North American states that comprise the OSCE to ensure that freedom of assembly is guaranteed to all. We told governments that “with defiance, the LGBTI community had struggled through the 2001 attack on a march in Serbia, struggled through and overcame the 2005 denial of Warsaw’s Parada Równości, struggled through and will overcome the multiple bans on a gay pride parade in Moscow.”Today, the Belgrade authorities are working closely with LGBTI rights activists to ensure proper police protection; Europride 2010 took place in Warsaw; and the European Court of Human Rights has ruled against Russia’s multiple bans of a parade in Moscow. How the Russian government will uphold its commitments will be evident in the coming days and weeks as activists make their annual attempt to hold a peaceful march at the end of May.