by April Hawkins | The United Nations held a “Stop Bullying” panel on international LGBT rights in the Netherlands last week to commemorate the 63rd anniversary of the International Declaration of Human Rights. For the first time in history, LGBT rights are becoming an international focus.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stated that all countries have a legal obligation to protect people from violence and discrimination, including on the grounds of sexual orientation. He stated that bullying and violence against gays, lesbians, or transgender individuals is “a moral outrage, a grave violation of human rights and a public health crisis.”
2011 has brought a lot of hope for the LGBT community. This year marks many firsts:
- The United Nations passed a resolution defending the rights of LGBT individuals
- US President Obama included gay and lesbian rights in his address to the United Nations General Assembly
- President Obama issued a memorandum stating that his administration and the United States foreign service will use all the tools of American diplomacy, including the enticement of foreign aid, to protect the rights of LGBT people around the world.The efforts of the US government to protect LGBT individuals are outlined here.
- US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addressed the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, stating, “it is a violation of human rights when governments declare it illegal to be gay. No matter what we look like, where we come from, or who we are, we are all equally entitled to our human rights and dignity.” Clinton also acknowledged that we have more work to do in the United States to protect the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals.
These are all great steps forward, but there is still so much to be done. The situation continues to be grim in some countries: the Russian government recently outlawed the “promotion of homosexuality, transsexuality and pedophilia to minors.” Homosexuality is still illegal in many countries across the world, including Tunisia, Morocco, Egypt, Lebanon, and Uganda. We can only continue to advocate for change and hope that the impact of foreign aid will help change some of these policies.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights will release a study on violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in the coming weeks. It will be interesting to see how the US measures up in comparison to the other G-20 members.