Organisations around the world are marking the International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO) today, Saturday May 17.

IDAHO is held annually to highlight that homophobia “is shameful and must be deconstructed in its social logic and fought against openly.”

May 17 was chosen as the day of the event because homosexuality was removed from the International Classification of Diseases of the World Health Organisation on that day in 1990.

In South Africa, Pretoria-based OUT chose to focus on the issue of hate crimes following the recent murders of a number of black lesbians.

In a statement, the organisation said that while South Africans had achieved many gains in the legal recognition of lesbian and gay people, “these are rendered shallow in the face of the continued victimisation and brutality against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

Most recently, Eudy “Styles” Simelane was assaulted, raped and murdered in the Tornado section of Kwa Thema in the East Rand at the end of April. Her alleged killers are currently standing trial for the murder.

In February 2006, Zoliswa Nkonyana was beaten, stoned and stabbed to death by a group of around 20 men in Khayelitsha in the Cape. In July 2007 Sizakele Sigasa and Salome Masooa were murdered in Soweto.

“It’s like we are living in a state of hate. We, as South Africans, are being driven apart from each other by our prejudices,” said Steve Letsike of OUT.

The International Lesbian and Gay Association has chosen IDAHO as the day to launch a yearly report on the extent of State homophobia around the world, available at

In 2008, no less than 86 member states of the United Nations still criminalise consensual same-sex acts among adults. Seven of these states have legal provisions with the death penalty as the punishment for homosexuality.

The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) said that IDAHO has a special significance this year, as it is the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

More recently, more than two dozen human rights experts from around the world issued another lauded document – the Yogyakarta Principles – which has become a standard for defining the range of rights to which LGBTI people everywhere are entitled under international law.

While praising the South African constitution “as a beacon to the rest of the world,” IGLHRC also noted that there is much work to be done around the world.

“Rampant violence against LGBTI people often goes un-investigated 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 unrecognised in many parts of the world,” said IGLHRC.

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