To raise awareness on the extent of State Sponsored Homophobia in the world, the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intesex Association (ILGA) publishes a series of resources including a world report on homophobic laws around the world, maps by region, videos and much more.
In ancient times (for example, among the Greeks, Romans, Chinese and Egyptians), homosexuality was just another expression of human sexuality, which was not stigmatized or regarded as particularly significant. The modern era and Judeo-Christianity changed this situation, punishing, censuring and banning all expressions of homosexuality.
Today in many countries around the world homosexuality continues to be penalized or discriminated against in law. One aim of the organizations that seek to defend the rights of gays and lesbians is to reform these discriminatory laws, and to get others passed that expressly protect the freedom of sexual orientation and identity (see Choike’s In-depth Report on Sexual diversity and the law). However, activists warn that legislative reforms alone will not put an end to the situations of discrimination and violence that many homosexuals suffer, because they are caused by a generalized homophobia that operates not only through legal channels, but permeates all spheres of society.
Homophobia is a term used to describe hatred and rejection of gays, lesbians and homosexuality. It refers to the fear or refusal of people, organizations, governments and other social actors to confront the reality and specificity of this non-heterosexual sexual orientation.
Homophobia has a direct, and often devastating, effect on the lives of homosexuals, who may suffer discrimination and abuse in their families, at work or in other social spheres. The most extreme form of homophobia is expressed in what are known as 'hate crimes', in which verbal and physical violence, death threats, rape or murder are committed solely on the basis of the victim’s sexual orientation.
These expressions of inter-personal homophobia are often legitimized by the existence of institutional homophobia, which can take different forms: the non-implementation of strategies to educate and raise awareness on issues around sexual diversity; the refusal by state officials to guarantee lesbian and gay victims their right to equality before the law; or direct persecution by state agents, in particular the police, which may include torture and extra-judicial executions.
Homosexuals who suffer extreme forms of persecution, either directly at the hands of the state, or at the hands of individuals or groups, against whom the state refuses to protect them, may be forced to seek asylum in other countries. However, only a select number of countries have national norms recognizing persecution on the basis of sexual orientation as grounds for granting asylum, and no international treaties deal explicitly with this issue.
Gay rights organizations engage in different activities designed to combat homophobia, reverse the impunity enjoyed by both state and private perpetrators of hate crimes, and put an end to persistent discriminatory practices that affect all aspects of homosexuals’ lives. These activities include registering, documenting, publicizing and providing legal support for cases of discrimination and violations of the human rights of sexual minorities, and pressing for the recognition of those rights in international human rights circles.
This report by the Inter Church Coalition for Human Rights in Latin America (Canada) details human rights violations against LGBT people, including extrajudicial executions and legal and extra-legal forms of repression (pdf format).
This pioneering case study by the People's Union for Civil Liberties - Karnataka shows that sexual minorities in India face discrimination and violation of their human rights at the hands of both state and society. It looks at discrimination by the law, by the police, by the family, by the medical establishment, by popular culture, in public spaces, in work spaces, in household spaces, its impact on the self, and issues of further marginalisation.
Just as we should deplore the role of religious extremism in terrorist acts, we must reject extremist intolerance and antipathy towards sexual minorities, argues Audrey Mbugua. Rather than 'surrender your brain' to hate-mongering religious leaders and misplaced fear, Mbugua stresses, we must focus on promoting peace and understanding. January 2010.
The authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina did not guarantee a climate free of intimidation for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, at the opening of the first Sarajevo Queer Festival taking place 24-28 September 2008. The festival's opening was marked by homophobic violence and atmosphere of a witch-hunt.
"Many of my friends and relatives are homosexual or bisexual, and I emphatically support their right to exercise their choices around their sexuality, as I do my own celibacy. But I am often struck by how many of my continental siblings, including those who strongly advocate the rights of socially marginalised groups, assert that 'homosexuality is a taboo in Africa', is indeed 'un-African'."
In most African states, homosexuality is illegal. Juliet Victor Mukasa writes that in Africa, transgender people are punished and ostracised for being who they are. “While still with my parents, I was always beaten by my father for “behaving” like a boy. In school, the same story. While peeing one day my neighbour’s daughter found me peeing while squatting and she screamed like she had seen a monster.” December 2006.
The study has reaffirmed that sexuality and sexual matters remain taboo subjects within most of the region. The gradual but slow realization that same-sex relationships are based upon fundamental human rights and freedom is slowly though reluctantly "seeping" across the region. The cultural and religious biases continue to discriminate and inhibit the full realization of the LGBTI communities. The "closeted" lifestyle of LGBTI's transcends the region and is a direct violation of an individual's right to association and freedom of choice. Notwithstanding the silence surrounding human rights of LGBTI groups, their very existence has facilitated public discourse on the indivisibility of human rights and poses the challenge to human rights activists selectively working around some human rights issues. May 2006.
Homophobia recently topped the news agenda when Cameroonian newspapers published a list of prominent people and accused them of homosexuality, sparking debate across Africa. Many African leaders are on record for their condemnation of homosexuality, but Jacob Rukweza, an activist with Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) argues that politicians must make space for homosexuals within the law. To not do so denies a fundamental aspect of their society and reflects poorly on their ability to lead as representatives of their nations. March 2006.
In late March, Sam Nujoma, President of Namibia, ordered a purge of homosexuals, stating that "The Republic of Namibia does not allow homosexuality or lesbianism here. Police are ordered to arrest you, deport you and imprison you." The Namibian Society for Human Rights countered that the "attempt to turn a personal dislike into ad hoc national policy is entirely unconstitutional and misguided." Statement by the Black Radical Congress.
These human rights violations occur in a country whose Constitution is one of the few in the world that explicitly includes "sexual orientation" in their non-discrimination provisions; and paradoxically most of these crimes brought to the attention of the Ecuadorian authorities go persistently unpunished.
The Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) group has come under attack - including threats of violence and imprisonment, and a ban on their participation at the Zimbabwe International Book Fair -- for carrying out their work as human rights activists.
After three decades of lobbying by the country's leading gay rights advocacy group, the Thai Department of Mental Health has finally announced that homosexuality is not a mental disease, thus complying with a 1993 World Health Organization decision.
In a strongly worded letter to Gambian President Yahyeh Jammeh, Paula Ettelbrick, Executive Director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) condemned statements by the West African leader ordering homosexuals out of the country, threatening hotel owners who rented rooms to gay and lesbian people, and threatening summary executions. Ettelbrick also called for the repeal of Gambia’s antiquated sodomy law, inherited from its days as British colony. May 2008.
Homophobic laws are still in place in many African states, violating the fundamental rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans and intersex (LGBTI) people. On the occasion of the Europe-Africa meeting in Lisbon (December 2007), Pan Africa ILGA, (African region of the International Lesbian and Gay Association), ILGA-Europe and ILGA together with a number of human rights organizations call on European and African governments to clearly state that LGBT rights are human rights and to adopt the Yogyakarta Principles, which are an authoritative compilation of those fundamental rights. December 2007.
August has proven to be a perilous months for gays in Nigeria and Cameroon, where large-scale arrests have taken place, and in Uganda, where gay activists have gone into hiding after government ministers called for their arrest. In Nigeria, an anti-gay riot occurred this August 21, after 18 young men appeared in an Islamic court in the sharia state of Bauchi to face charges of cross-dressing in women’s clothes. In Cameroon, six teenagers have been jailed without trial since July 30 on charges of homosexuality following police use of torture to make other youths "name names" of their gay friends in Douala, the country’s largest city. And in Uganda, most of that nation’s small group of LGBT activists went into hiding following calls for their arrest by Deputy Attorney General Fred Ruhinde and Minister of Ethics and Integrity Nsaba Butoro. September 2007.
Considering all of Nigeria's problems it is unfortunate that the National Assembly has the audacity to welcome the homophobic bill presented to it by the Presidency to punish lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transvestites (LGBTs). But it is a shame that the National Assembly went along to give a precious time to giving consideration to this obnoxious Bill despite the fact that there are many other issues that demand urgent national attention. February 2007.
International human rights mechanisms and homophobia
Amnesty International handbook intended to enable AI members, groups and networks to get involved in promoting and defending the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people. Chapters on: What are lesbian and gay rights; lesbian and gay human rights and international standards; the global lesbian and gay rights movement.
NGOs from around the world welcomed a landmark statement on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity, delivered by Norway on 1st December 2006, at the United Nations Human Rights Council on behalf of 54 States. The statement condemns human rights violations directed against people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, commends the work of UN mechanisms and civil society in this area, calls on UN Special Procedures and treaty bodies to address these issues, and urges the Human Rights Council to pay due attention to human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity, including consideration at an upcoming session. December 2006.
The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) published a new study, Off the Map, which for the first time reveals how African governments and the global HIV/AIDS policy and funding community is denying basic human rights to same-sex practicing people in Africa. The report documents some shocking examples of how lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people are denied access to effective HIV prevention, counseling and testing, treatment, and care. March 2007 (pdf version).
The book Urgency Required focuses on urgent issues of gay and lesbian liberation, taking a historical perspective and reflecting worldwide geographic diversity. Employing the term ‘LGBT-persons’, the acronym used for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender, it explores concepts and strategies for taking steps towards decriminalization and equal rights and treatment regarding sexual orientation and gender identity. January 2010.
SexPolitics - Reports from the Front Lines is the outcome of a project launched by Sexuality Policy Watch (SPW) in 2004: a transnational, cross-cultural research initiative to capture some dynamics of sexual politics in our time. Research was performed in eight countries - Brazil, Egypt, India, Peru, Poland, South Africa, Turkey, and Vietnam - and in relation to two global institution, the United Nations and the World Bank.
Chapters on: criminalizing homosexuality: a licence to torture; torture and ill-treatment by police; torture and ill-treatment in prisons; forced medical treatment in state institutions; homophobic violence in the community; fleeing torture based on sexual identity; LGBT rights defenders at risk.
Every 3 days a gay man, transvestite or lesbian is brutally murdered in Brazil. Bulletin from the Gay Group of Bahia, the oldest gay rights group in Brazil, denouncing violations of human rights and 116 murders of homosexuals which occurred in that country in 1998.
Hands up, how many of you have heard of Matthew Shephard? Yes, that’s right, he was the American gay student who was tortured and killed for being homosexual. And what about Brandon Teena, the transman that the movie Boys Don’t Cry was based on? Now let’s take it closer to home. Hands up, who has heard of Madoe Mafubedu? No takers? It seems our community isn’t noticing what’s going on in our own backyard? July 2007.
Fannyann Eddy, founder of the Sierra Leone Lesbian and Gay Association, was brutally raped and murdered while she was working late in her organization's offices. Tributes from fellow activists, international human rights organizations and funding bodies have been flooding in following the harrowing news of Fannyann's death. October 2004.
The Uruguay authorities should investigate whether a decision by private television stations not to run a public awareness commercial designed to reduce discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people is lawful, Human Rights Watch said today in a letter to the Uruguayan minister of education and culture and the Communication Services Regulation Unit. March 2009.
The homosexual community in Chile demands better treatment by the communications media because gays and lesbians are tired of being subjected to discrimination, pity and sensationalism, and of being analysed by 'experts'.
The IGLHRC campaigns to prevent human rights violations based on sexual orientation, gender identity or HIV status. IGLHRC responds to such human rights violations around the world through documentation, advocacy, coalition building, public education, and technical assistance. IGLHRC runs an asylum program, an emergency response network, and publishes country specific reports.
ILGA is a worldwide federation of more than 350 LGBT rights organizations in over 70 countries in all continents. Founded in 1978, ILGA mobilizes international responses on individual cases of human rights violations and lobbies international organizations such as the United Nations and the Council of Europe.
"We have to find ways to be understood before we ask for equality." A realistic if huge challenge was acknowledged at the recent ILGA conference (International Lesbian and Gay Association) of the African region. Despite the fact that 38 countries in Africa outlaw homosexuality certainly many delegates came from those countries and are organising on behalf of the minorities. There were some Christian and Muslim representatives that recognize the need for dialogue between religious leaders, institutions, the LGBTI organisations and members. Issues, networking, planning, organising, capacity building plus agreeing to a constitution made a full agenda, Undoubtedly it was too ambitious for only four days, but still it was deemed a success. May 2007.
An international organization dedicated to Muslims who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, those questioning their sexual orientation and/or gender identity, as well as their families, friends, partners, and allies.
At the World Solcial Forum 2007 in Kenya's capital, lesbians and gays from across Africa have come out to express how they have been ill-treated by society. In most African countries, homosexuality is taboo. It is regarded by some as satanic and un-African. January 2007.