Today is the 9th International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO), a day that will be marked by individuals and groups in over 100 countries around the world.
The event has been commemorated every year on May 17 since 2005 to honour the day that homosexuality was removed from the International Classification of Diseases of the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 1992.
The IDAHO Committee, the organisation promoting the day worldwide, noted that 1.5 billion people live in countries that currently criminalise same-sex relations.
“It is widely accepted that people who have a predominantly same-sex attraction represent around 3% of the population. This means that 46 million people, the size of the population of Spain, are de facto outlawed and their love lives made impossible,” said the IDAHO Committee.
Yesterday night, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, delivered a speech on behalf of the Secretary-General of the UN, Ban Ki-moon, at the launch of a two day International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia conference in The Hague.
In the speech, the Secretary General said that “for generations, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in all regions have been subjected to terrible violence on account of their sexual orientation and gender identity”. He added: “For far too long, their suffering was met with silence in the halls of power. As Secretary-General, I am committed to raising my voice.”
While asserting the need for legal reforms, Ban emphasised that “public education is also essential to challenge negative stereotypes and promote greater understanding”.
The recently installed Queen Maxima of the Netherlands attended the opening ceremony of the IDAHO conference, one of her very first public events. Her participation was hailed by the organisers as a sign of her support for human rights for all.
Events that will take place around the world to mark the 9th IDAHO include a whole day’s programming dedicated to IDAHO by MTV Brazil; a demonstration in Saint Petersburg, Russia, despite an official ban of the event; 50,000 people demonstrating for equal rights in Chile; the launch of an online campaign by Palestinian lesbian groups; and flash mob events in Hungary, Georgia, Estonia, Moldova, Algeria, and dozens of other countries.
In Pretoria, LGBT health and well-being group OUT commemorated IDAHO by planting pansies on the pavement in front of its office building in Hatfield to remember people who’ve experienced homophobia and hate crimes in South Africa.
The initiative is part of The Pansy Project, created by UK artist Paul Harfleet who plants pansies near the sites of homophobic attacks as a gesture of quiet resistance.
Also on Friday, the Civil Society Forum of the South African National AIDS Council (SANAC) expressed its support for IDAHO.
“In South Africa, where lesbians, gay men, men who have sex with men (MSM), and transgendered people are often stigmatised and heavily discriminated against, it has been difficult to fully implement and integrate HIV/AIDS, and other health programmes on a more meaningful national level,” said the forum in a statement.
“Homophobic and trans-phobic violence and discrimination aimed at the LGBTI communities has profoundly influenced the on-going rise in the HIV, TB and STI epidemics. Their vulnerability often translates into a fear of accessing health care.”
In light of past incidents of the dangerous outing of gays and lesbians by Ugandan newspapers, Sexual Minorities Uganda used IDAHO to urge local media to “refrain from publishing articles which serve only to undermine the deeply held values of tolerance and respect for diversity upon which Ugandan society is founded”.
The organisation also urged the Ugandan government to reject the Anti-Homosexuality Bill that is still pending in parliament.
In Zambia, the organisation Friends of RAINKA, made an urgent appeal to the government of Zambia, the church and the Zambian public “to stop the targeted violence, arbitrary arrests and discrimination of LGBTI people on account of their sexual orientation and gender identity”.
The group said that these incidents had “been fuelled by inflammatory statements made by Zambian government officials, leaders from different religious sects and the general public over the past few months”.
IDAHO is officially recognised by the EU Parliament, Spain, Belgium, the UK, Mexico, Costa Rica, Croatia, the Netherlands, France, and Luxembourg. It is also recognised by numerous local authorities, such as the province of Quebec and the city of Buenos Aires.