027_Global12_InSight_GayRights_V4

Global issue 12

Global InsightLGBT Rights pings, rape and sexual assault) or psychological (including threats, coercion and arbitrary deprivations of liberty).” Despite these breakthroughs, even today no international hu- man rights convention specifically acknowledges love and sexual rights as human rights. None explicitly guarantees equality and non-discrimination to LGBT people. The right to love a person of one’s choice is absent from global humanitarian statutes. Relation- ships between partners of the same sex are not officially recog- nised in any international law. There is nothing in the many UN conventions that specifically upholds LGBT equality and prohibits homophobic discrimination. Some UN members and bodies have merely chosen to interpret the general commitments to equal rights and non-discrimination in the existing conventions as applying to LGBT people. Likewise with regard to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). It is only in the last decade or so that the ECHR’s equality and privacy clauses have been interpreted to outlaw dis- crimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender iden- tity. In the late 1990s, British LGBT citizens filed appeals at the European Court of Human Rights against the UK’s then discrimi- natory, homophobic laws. They cited the ECHR’s right to privacy and anti-discrimination clauses to successfully challenge anti-gay UK legislation dating back centuries. These victories in Strasbourg played an important role in challenging and overturning homopho- Credit: AnemoneProjectors CC-BY-SA 2.0-Of the 193 member states of the UN, only a handful have re forced the British government to repeal the unequal age of consent for gay men, discriminatory sexual offences laws and the ban on lesbians and gays serving in the armed forces. ECHR judgements also successfully pressured other countries, such as Romania and Cyprus, to decriminalise homosexuality. The convention has thus bic legislation. pealed nearly all major legal inequalities against LGBT people: the Netherlands, South Africa, Belgium, Spain, France, Brazil, Germany, Iceland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Portugal, Canada, New Zealand and, more recently, the UK. Out and about: LGBT rights group Stonewall at London Pride celebrations Britain’s record was not always so positive. Until 1999, when History has been made in Lebanon – the first Arab Middle East legislative reform began, the UK had the largest number of homo- nation to allow the open, legal establishment of an LGBT welfare phobic laws of any country on earth – some of them dating back and human rights group, Helem. centuries. Thanks to an astute 20-year twin-track campaign of di- While fundamentalist religion is still a major threat to LGBT rect action protest and parliamentary lobbying, today the UK is one equality, campaigners also have allies in many faiths. The anti- of the world’s most progressive countries on LGBT rights. apartheid hero Archbishop Desmond Tutu has compared homo- Some supposedly liberal democracies have been slow to grant phobia to racism, and described the battle for LGBT freedom as LGBT equality. The USA maintains a federal ban on same-sex mar- the moral equivalent of the fight against apartheid. Eight countries riage and not all states have full anti-discrimination protection. The now outlaw sexual orientation discrimination in their constitutions: Australian parliament recently voted down a bill to allow same-sex South Africa (1996), Ecuador (1998), Switzerland (2000), Sweden couples to marry, even though such legislation has overwhelming (2003), Portugal (2004), the British Virgin Islands (2007), Kosovo public support. Most of the emergent post-communist Central and (2008) and Bolivia (2009). Eastern European democracies maintain varying degrees of legal In almost every country on earth, there are LGBT freedom discrimination – and harbour public attitudes that are extremely movements – some open, others clandestine. For the first time ever, homophobic. countries like the Philippines, Estonia, Columbia, Russia, SriLan- Despite this discrimination, LGBT people have made huge ka and China are hosting LGBT conferences and Gay Pride cel- strides forward in many parts of the world. A mere four decades ebrations. Via the Internet and pop culture, LGBT people in small ago, ‘queers’ were almost universally seen as mad, bad and sad. towns in Ghana, Peru, Uzbekistan, Kuwait, Vietnam, St Lucia, Pal- Same-sex relations were deemed a sin, a crime and a sickness. It estine, Fiji and Kenya are connecting with the worldwide LGBT was only in 1991 that the World Health Organization declassified community. The struggle for LGBT liberation has gone global. homosexuality as an illness, and that Amnesty International agreed We’ve begun to roll back the homophobia of centuries. Bravo! to campaign for LGBT human rights and to adopt jailed LGBTs as prisoners of conscience. Peter Tatchell has campaigned for human rights and LGBT freedom Nowadays, the global tide is shifting in favour of LGBT eman- since 1967. In 1999, he made a citizen’s arrest of the Zimbabwean cipation. In 1999, in New Zealand, Georgina Beyer became the president, Robert Mugabe, for human rights abuses. world’s first openly transgender MP. Uruguay, once a military dic- More info: www.PeterTatchellFoundation.org tatorship, has lifted its prohibition on gay servicemen and women. globalfourth quarter 2012 www.global-briefing.org l27


Global issue 12
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