U.N. issues first-ever report on LGBT human rights violations
by Heather Cassell
LGBT individuals around the world gained the United Nations' backing with the release of the global agency's first-ever report on violations of LGBT human rights around the world.
Navi Pillay, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, presented the report, titled "Discriminatory laws and practices and acts of violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity, A.HRC.19.41" to the U.N. General Assembly on December 15.
The 25-page report called for safeguarding LGBT people and prosecuting perpetrators of crimes against queer individuals. Particular focus was given to lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people as incidents of assaults, violence, and deaths due to their gender identity or sexual orientation were cited in nearly every part of the report.
In spite of the two decades of documentation of human rights violations against LGBT people around the world, this was the first time the U.N. compiled reported atrocities committed against queer people and officially came out in support of LGBTs.
Pillay, a longtime outspoken advocate of LGBTs, called for the abolishment of criminalization of and violence against them and for countries to begin implementing policies to protect their queer citizens immediately.
The report comes on the heels of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's groundbreaking speech in Geneva December 6 and President Barack Obama's announcement of a $3 million investment in LGBT people globally that same day. Clinton's historic speech was prefaced by the United Kingdom's announcement to pull funding from nations actively violating LGBT human rights and the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Perth, Australia, that backed the U.K. decision.
Support for LGBT people around the world has increased in recent months after years of hard work around the globe, advocates said.
"The report is a tribute to all of the activists who have fought for recognition of homophobic violence and transphobic discrimination over decades, often in the face of extreme hostility," said Jessica Stern, acting executive director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, in a December 15 news release.
Citing the historical moment in the global LGBT human rights movement, Stern added, "The report illustrates that while full equality has not yet been adequately achieved around the world, there is a growing awareness of the fundamental importance of these issues."
Boris Dittrich, advocacy director of the LGBT Rights Program at Human Rights Watch, placed urgency on countries to implement the recommendations in the report.
Some of the recommendations to improve LGBT individuals' lives included implementing legal and policy protections, abolishing laws that harm queer people, launching a public campaign, and properly investigating and prosecuting hate crimes against LGBTs.
"These recommendations should be implemented immediately. It is a matter of life and death. LGBTI people face terrible human rights abuses. Every day counts," Dittrich said in a December 19 news statement that also referenced intersex people.
The work isn't over. The U.N.'s report only validates and provides an assertion of LGBT rights. This past year, several nations, most notably African countries Cameroon, Nigeria, Uganda, and Zimbabwe, have actively legislated away the rights of their LGBT citizens, even sanctioning death in some instances.
The U.N. Human Rights Council will meet again in Geneva on March 1 to present the report and hold a panel discussion.
To read the report, visit http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/docs/19session/A.HRC.19.41_English.pdf.
Islamic extremists threaten lesbian author
Canadian-Muslim lesbian author Irshad Manji was interrupted during a debate by members of Sharia4Belgium, an extremist group based in Belgium, in Amsterdam on December 8, according to media reports.
About 20 men and boys arrived halfway through Manji's debate with Member of Parliament Tofik Dibi at the De Balie Theater yelling that Manji's neck should be broken. They also chanted and threw eggs at audience members, reported LGBT Asylum News.
The group is an offshoot of Sharia4Holland.
Dibi and Manji stood their ground and didn't leave the stage. Their conversation with each another turned into a debate with the rowdy men until police arrived and arrested two of the protesters.
This isn't the first time Manji received death threats. Since the publication of her first book, the New York Times bestseller, The Trouble with Islam Today, death threats have been a part of her life.
Dibi and Manji weren't injured during the incident, and audience members stood and formed a circle to protect them, according to media reports.
The debate was one of the stops on her European book tour promoting her most recent book, Allah: Liberty and Love.
One of the key messages in the book is "moral courage, the willingness to 'speak up' even when everyone else 'wants to shut you up,'" Manji told LGBT Asylum News.
To learn more about Manji, visit http://www.irshadmanji.com.