Freedom House Applauds Global Action on International Day to End Homophobia
Freedom House applauds international efforts to combat discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity exemplified by global events on May 17 marking the International Day to End Homophobia (IDAHO). The coordination of events in more than 100 countries worldwide, including countries with poor human rights records like Burma, Algeria, Iran and the United Arab Emirates, is a positive step forward in the struggle for equal rights for LGBTI. Despite these positive events, a number of troubling attacks on the day’s supporters illustrates the continuing need for vigilance in acknowledging rights abuses and ending discrimination.
More than 30 countries participated in public action to commemorate International Day to End Homophobia, which calls for the repeal of legislation discriminating against LGBTI persons. The day drew support from institutions including the World Health Organization, United Nations and European Union.
Freedom House is concerned though that in a disturbing sign of intolerance and intimidation, persons at public events commemorating the IDAHO in Albania, Slovakia, Georgia and Russia were attacked, demonstrators in Malaysia were deterred by threats, and activists in Fiji were denied a permit to host a public event.
In St. Petersburg, Russia, thugs attacked a group of LGBTI rights activists who were participating in a “flashmob” protest. According to media reports, the incident started when a counter-protestor shot an LGBTI rights activist in the face with an air gun. After the activists left the scene, thugs hurled stones and flares at a bus filled with migrant laborers, which they mistook for a bus occupied by LGBTI rights activists. Violence in Russia follows the passage of legislation banning "homosexual propaganda," which has drawn widespread condemnation from LGBTI rights activists, Russian human rights defenders, and international human rights groups.
In Georgia, a group of 20 people hosting a gay pride parade was attacked, blocked from marching towards parliament, and had their signs smashed by a group of Christian activists lead by Orthodox priests. Demonstrators in Albania were prevented from hosting a gay pride parade, and later attacked with homemade bombs by youth while cycling through the Albanian capital to mark the IDAHO.
Violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity has been largely ignored internationally, and in many countries, legislation still exists that considers homosexuality illegal, including Pakistan, Morocco, Uganda and Iran. In May 2011, the United Nations passed a landmark resolution on sexual orientation and gender identity, calling on the High Commissioner for Human Rights to prepare a study on violence and discrimination against LGBTI persons and host a follow-up panel to discuss the findings.