On 17 May International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia was marked around the world. The occasion was met with various reactions around the world, as many countries held pride marches, and public figures and politicians spoke about the promotion and respect of human rights for the global LGBT community–many attempts were marred by protest and violence.
Viviane Reding, Vice-President of the European Commission, spoke to a gathering of EU ministers at the first IDAHO (International Day Against Homophobia), addressing the underlying human rights issues which give rise to homophobia and transphobia, saying:
“Homophobia and transphobia are violations of human dignity. Homophobic and transphobic attitudes are incompatible with the values and principles upon which the European Union is founded – as laid out in Article 2 of the Treaty. And yet, LGBT people in all countries of the EU continue to be victims of violence, exclusion and discrimination. Invisibility remains a daily survival strategy for many.”
It was a sentiment echoed by many, including UK Foreign Secretary William Hague, who commemorated the day by emphasising the universality of human rights, saying:
“The protection and promotion of the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people is an integral part of the government’s wider international human rights agenda. Unfortunately, this position is not universally shared.Internationally, the LGBT community continue to experience abuse of their human rights, including torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, restrictions on their freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, and discrimination in employment and access to health services and education. They continue also to be subjected to violence and hate crimes.”
Such instances of discrimination were not difficult to call to mind, as just beyond EU borders in Tbisili, Georgia, a planned gay rights rally in honour of IDAHO had to be abandoned after protesters, including Orthodox priests, disrupted the event. Thousands of anti-gay protesters broke through police cordons, with several dozen gay activists having to be evacuated from the city centre. The violent eruption resulted in 17 people being injured – 12 of whom were hospitalized, including three policemen and a journalist.
The harsh backlash in Tbilisi caught international news, and was condemned by Amnesty International, as Central Asian program director John Dalhuisen spoke out against the occurrence, saying:
“Ironically this shameful violence marred a day that is meant to mark solidarity in the face of homophobic violence around the world, and it shows that the Georgian authorities have a long way to go to promote tolerance and protect LGBTI people and their human rights. “The authorities must investigate this violence and bring to justice those responsible for committing acts punishable by law.”
Similarly, Ukraine is contending with a sharp rise in the number of homophobic attacks being reported in the capital of Kyiv. In spite of this, and the forced cancellation of last year’s pride march, the LGBT community intends to go ahead with a planned march next week. Human Rights Watch released a report last week saying that LGBT discrimination in the Ukraine is spiralling out of control–as sixty-one lawmakers have signed a petition urging the mayor of Ukraine to ban the gay-pride parade.
Meanwhile in Moldova, last week bore witness to the country’s first ever pride parade. The Pride March was attended by the Swedish and the American ambassador, the EU Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy as well as representatives of ILGA Europe and the European parliament who held speeches in front of the participants and several local media.
Renato Sabbadini, The co-secretary general of ILGA (International Lesbian and Gay Association), addressed the issue of homophobia in the Post Soviet countries, and the potential reasons for the issue:
“…After the fall of the Soviet Union there were years of hope because there was a general feeling of freedom. This is when these countries decriminalized homosexual behavior. Unfortunately, toward the end of the 2000s, the mood changed. A rapprochement between the church and the state took place, particularly in Russia. This brought a wave of homophobia, which has unfortunately become an institutionalized homophobia. So things have changed for the worse.”
Interestingly, IDAHO coincided with the release of a study by two Swedish economists about racial tolerance worldwide. The objective of the study was to determine whether economic freedom correlated with racial tolerance.
The resulting map (shown left) was constructed based on the World Values Survey which asked respondents identify the kinds of people they would not want as neighbors. The more frequently people in a country said they didn’t want neighbors from other races, the economists reasoned, the less racially tolerant the society would be.
The study has elicited mixed reviews, with some calling the results as essentially baseless, and decrying the methodology. In the end, according to the study, no strong parallel between economic freedom and racial tolerance was found–however, the findings do appear to match those of a country’s tolerance towards homosexuals.
WATCH the EU LGBT survey:
Over 93,000 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people from all across the European Union (EU) were asked about their experience of discrimination, violence and harassment.
All data and results are available at http://fra.europa.eu