In view of the recently-concluded Twelfth Regular Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, the October 10-11 National Equality March in the United States, October 10 World Mental Health Day, October 11 International Coming Out Day, October 16 United Nations World Food Day, October 17 United Nations International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, October 17 Global Action to Stop Trans Pathologization, October 24 United Nations Day, United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen on 1-18 December 2009, and December 10 United Nations Human Rights Day, lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgenders, transsexuals, intersex, and other sexual and gender minorities from the Global South through the Global South LGBTIQ Activists’ Forum drafted and are releasing the attached sign-on statement inviting the support of LGBTIQs from the Global South and the Global North.
Translations of this statement in various languages will be available soon.
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Global South LGBTIQ Activists’ Forum
Equality and Justice for the People of the Global South!
Equality and Justice for All LGBTIQ People in the World!
And today, we, lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgenders, transsexuals, intersex, queers (LGBTIQs) and other 'sexual and gender minorities' (SGMs) from the Global South and the Global North commemorate that message of Martin Luther King Jr. as we join our sisters and brothers in the United States and all over the world in marching for justice and equality in civil and political rights. But more than marching for these rights, we LGBTIs and other SGMs from the Global South and the Global North are today also marching for our economic, social, cultural, and collective rights. We believe that there can never be a genuine and more meaningful justice and equality for ALL lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgenders, intersex and other 'sexual and gender minorities' in the world if there is economic, social, cultural and collective injustice, oppression and violence committed against the people of the Global South by International Financial Institutions (IFIs), States, governments, corporations and multinational-transnational companies from and based in the Global North.
In our daily lives, we from the Global South face not only violation of our civil and political rights, but more importantly and for a very long time we have experienced violation of our economic, social, cultural and collective rights. As sexual and gender minorities, we have experienced not only stigma, discrimination, abuse, and violence on the basis of our sexual orientation and gender identity but as citizens of the Global South, we continue to experience structural and systemic violations of our dignity, rights, and freedoms caused by socio-economic inequality and poverty, patriarchy and heterosexism-heteronormativity, racism, xenophobia, discrimination on the basis of our ethnicity, culture and religion, religious fundamentalism and intolerance, and war.
In Sub-Saharan Africa, there is State-sponsored homophobia allowing violence against sexual and gender minorities committed by the family, religion, schools, and the law and law enforcers. Poverty and the imposition of neoliberal policies and structural adjustment programs on the region have led to safety nets for social protection and for basic social services on food, health, education and housing for LGBTIs to be almost non-existent. LGBTI people are stigmatized and colonial-era laws penalize homosexual conduct. Media and the work of civil society is censored and with the collusion of the government and the church, an “African culture” is used to justify the discrimination, abuse and violence against LGBTIs and other SGMs. Media is often used by the government to further marginalize and violate the rights of sexual and gender minorities. Religious fundamentalists have successfully forged a pan-African alliance against homosexuality such that in countries that do not previously have laws criminalizing homosexuality have been strongly influenced to put into law harsher penalties in areas related to sexuality. And while many are dying from hunger and HIV/AIDS, LGBTIs remain marginalized due to policy and funding exclusion from the government and conservative NGOs and funding agencies. Women-who-have-sex-with-women (WSW) remain excluded in HIV intervention programs and despite numerous researches done on men-who-have-sex-with-men (MSM), there are still no government-run intervention programs specifically for them.
In the Middle East and North Africa, specifically after the invasion of Iraq by American and allied forces and in light of the global policy on “war against terrorism”, there has been in recent years brutal crackdowns and campaigns aimed at cleaning up so-called deviant sexuality or gender expression. While laws criminalizing homosexual conduct between men as well as between women exist in most countries of the region, these laws are not purely products of Islam as many outside MENA commonly believe but are mostly products of colonialism. While religion-based regimes as well as secular and authoritarian States in the region carry out crackdowns on sexuality ascertaining the intensity and frequency of arrests and executions can be difficult. Situations vary from one country to another in the region but generally, women and LGBTQ people still lack recognition and protection of their basic human rights and fundamental freedoms as equals in society. Women in the region are particularly at high risk of violence as they have no control over their own bodies and their own movements due to structures and systems related to the family, custom, law, as well as the economy. LGBTQ people on the other hand, if in case they are out and manage to stay alive, are still stigmatized, discriminated, and at high risk of violence because of laws, customs and views related to sexuality. Civil society has been under severe attack and some existing NGOs have been placed under strict conditions since the 1990s. And while the internet has brought promise to developing a LGBTQ community especially among those who can afford it, like civil society, it too has been subjected to censorship particularly on issues related to sexuality and gender. Lastly, while HIV/AIDS have remained unreported and invisible in the region, information on sexuality and related rights violations have likewise remained scanty.
In Eastern Europe and Central Asia, despite democracy being gained after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, conservative codes of morality and masculinity still play out and many LGBTs have now been beaten, jailed, and denied their rights to expression and to peaceful assembly and association. While ‘sodomy laws’ have been scrapped, vilification of LGBT people from political and religious leaders continue which then fans the flames of hatred from organized extremists, Neo-Nazis in particular. LGBTs are stigmatized and marginalized as homosexuality and transgenderism are called a sin, a sickness, or a break from so-called “traditional values”. Overall, violence against LGBT people in the region includes verbal and family violence, physical attack, sexual assault, and sexual harassment. While accession to the European Union brings some promise to many LGBTs in the region, organizing around issues has been troubled due to little and lessening international funding.
In Asia and the Pacific, there is diversity in people, culture, political and religious systems, and issues. Abuse and violence against LGBTIs and SGMs arise from either one or a combination of colonialism and laws like ‘sodomy laws’, conservative codes of morality, gender and sexuality, and poverty. In former British colonies as well as in non-British colonies across the region, versions of the colonial provision on the ‘carnal intercourse against the order of nature’ play out and decriminalization of homosexual acts form a big part of the struggle of LGBTIQs, SGMs, and their organizations. Many LGBTIQs and SGMs experience stigmatization, marginalization, and violence ranging from verbal and family violence, physical attack, sexual assault, and sexual harassment. As in other regions of the world, homosexuality and transgenderism-transsexuality is also seen as a sin, a sickness, a break from so-called “Asian values”, or all of the above. For many countries in the region, especially those that experienced colonization, the biggest struggle is still poverty (eradication). Many in Asia and the Pacific continue to face structural and systemic violations of their dignity, rights and freedoms due to the dynamics of elite rule and socio-economic inequality, patriarchy, discrimination on the bases of race, ethnicity, culture, religion, and health status (e.g. HIV/AIDS, disability), regionalism, and war while suffering the impact of the imposition of structural adjustment programs of IFIs and the dehumanizing influence and role played by multilateral-transnational corporations and select powerful States and governments. In recent years there has been a growth in extremist-nationalism and religious fundamentalism and intolerance leading to further stigmatization, marginalization, discrimination, and violence against women, LGBTIQs and SGMs in the region.
In the Caribbean, there is a high level of social homophobia rooted in British colonial laws. The combination of an intensely repressive environment in families, communities, and public spaces, and antiquated laws on sexuality keeps people underground and closeted—and sometimes kills those who come out of the closet. British colonial laws like ‘buggery laws’(related to ‘sodomy laws’) prevent LGBTs from being visible which then leads to further discrimination at work, family life, law, and public life. Homophobia and violence against LGBTs exist and are strengthened by culture’s strong definitions of masculinity and femininity that are supported by religious fundamentalists and political conservatives.
In Latin America much has been won by the LGBT community in the past twenty years. Democracy has paved the way for the political and cultural participation of many in the LGBT sector which then enabled a few countries in the region to now have national protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. However, poverty and violence against LGBTs and other SGMs still exist. While ‘sodomy laws’ have been repealed in most of the countries in the region, police brutality and human rights abuses continue due mainly to strong codes of morality and good customs which are strengthened by the influence of the church and religious fundamentalists. Still dominating much of the region, hetero-patriarchal values have especially become harmful to women—many lesbians, bisexual women, and transwomen, for example, have been murdered and killed by family members of their respective partners. In many countries in the region sexuality education is still anchored on reproduction and many sexual and gender minorities have been morally and psychologically attacked by the school system and its members. Services in health are lacking or are denied from transgender people. Workplace discrimination is also common.
All of these problems however are not isolated cases but are in fact nationally and regionally reinforced because of the existing inequity and inequality in the current global economic and political structure--the divide between the rich, advanced, and developed countries of the Global North and the poor and “developing” countries of the Global South.
The "indebtedness" of the Global South is the result of the exploitation and control of the resources, economies and peoples of the Global South throughout the history of colonization, neocolonization, and capitalist globalization. There are odious, onerous and illegitimate debts that the Global South does not actually owe and need to pay the Global North but there are certainly historical, social, economic, and ecological debts that the Global North needs to pay the Global South. In the spirit of justice, all of these debts must be audited and accounted for in a comprehensive and participatory manner and full restitution and reparations be made for the human, social, and environmental damages caused in the Global South. We strongly believe and support the call for Total Debt Cancellation without conditionalities for all countries of the Global South as a crucial first step towards addressing this divide between the Global North and the Global South and the long-standing economic-social-cultural and collective oppression and violence against the people of the Global South.
In order for us LGBTIQs and other SGMs in the Global South to have our equality in dignity, rights, and freedoms fulfilled, our governments and States must have their equal right to a healthy and sustainable environment, equal right to development, and equal right to economic and political self-determination free from the destructive and deadly influence, meddling and coercion of international financial institutions (IFIs) like the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, Asian Development Bank, Financial Stability Forum, World Trade Organization and of powerful States and governments. As peoples of the Global South, we have witnessed and experienced not only the destruction of our economic, cultural, and biological diversity, but we have also witnessed the rejection, negation and destruction of our sexual and gender diversity because of so-called "development" paradigms, policies, and programs peddled by these IFIs and serving only the interests of a few States and governments.
In view of the global economic and financial crisis, we strongly support the call for the shutdown of these IFIs so that our States and governments can independently and effectively fulfil our economic, social and cultural rights--right to food, right to the highest attainable standard of health, right to education, right to adequate housing, right to work in a conducive environment with just compensation, right to social security and to other social protection measures, right to participate in cultural life, right to a recognized and respected cultural identity, and others, as well as our collective rights--right to sustainable development, right to economic and political self-determination, right to a healthy and balanced environment, and right to peace, so we may live our lives in dignity, free from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and/or gender identity. We strongly support the call for reform and the strengthening of the United Nations so that no country or group of countries can control and dominate the affairs of this august body to the detriment of other nations and countries, and so that this body can effectively fulfil its mandate of protecting the equality in dignity, rights and freedoms of ALL people no matter what their sexes, genders, sexual orientations, or gender identities are.
In view of the global food, fuel, and climate crises and their huge impact on the people of the Global South and on Earth, we call on the IFIs, transnational/multinational companies, corporations, governments, and States from the Global North to acknowledge their role in these crises, to cease polluting the environment with their policies, programs, and products, and to take immediate and full responsibility in helping governments and States from the Global South to adapt to climate change with full recognition, respect for, and protection of their equal right to development, equal right to self-determination, and equal right to a healthy and sustainable environment. At the United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Denmark this December, we call on all States and governments to agree on decisively and drastically bringing down greenhouse gas emissions to below 1990 levels and to work together so that countries from the Global South can adapt to climate change fully recognizing, respecting and helping them fulfil their right to development, right to self-determination, and right to a healthy and sustainable environment. As we strongly believe and call for sexual and gender justice, we also strongly believe and call for climate justice now.
On this very important day, 10 October 2009, as millions of LGBTIQs and other SGMs all over the world march together for justice and equality, we call on our LGBTIQ sisters and brothers in the Global North, in the developed and advanced countries and economies to equally recognize, respect, and protect not just our civil and political rights and freedoms but also and more importantly our economic, social, cultural, and collective rights as people and as sexual and gendered beings living and loving in the Global South and in the Global North.
We lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgenders, transsexuals, intersex and other sexual and gender minorities from the Global South and the Global North assert:
ALL human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights!
ALL HUMAN RIGHTS are universal, interdependent, indivisible and interrelated!
SEXUAL ORIENTATION and GENDER IDENTITY are integral to every person’s dignity and humanity and must not be the basis for discrimination or abuse!
Global South LGBTIQ Activists’ Forum – International