From the adoption of marriage laws in Argentina and Iceland, and the decision of the Brazilian Supreme Court recognizing rights of same-sex civil unions, to the issuing of a Statement signed by 85 countries at the UN Human Rights Council condemning persecution on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, a lot of progress has been made the last year on recognition of LGBTI rights in the world. Though the number of countries criminalizing same-sex sexual activities between consenting adults is still the same of last year, namely 76 (including the five which have the death penalty), it is becoming more and more difficult for homophobic states to defend their laws on the international stage.
This was one of the conclusions of ILGA’s (The International Lesbian, Gay, trans, Bisexual and Intersex Association) co-secretary generals Gloria Careaga and Renato Sabbadini in their foreword to the State Sponsored Homophobia report 2011, a tool for all activists, scholars and journalists to see and show others (together with its related map (PDF)) where the world stands on laws related to sexual orientation and gender identity (a more in depth report on state sponsored transphobia will be launched soon).
The report, edited by Eddie Bruce Jones, Lecturer in Law at Birkbeck College, and Lucas Paoli Itaborahy, MA candidate Human Rights at Roehampton University, with the help of professors Robert Wintemute (King's College, London) and Kees Waaldijk (University of Leiden), was launched 16 May, the eve of the International Day against Homophobia. The event took place at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies at the University of London with a panel discussion featuring Wintemute, Sabbadini and lesbian activists and refugees Florence Kizza (Uganda) and Brenda Wade (Jamaica).
The panel commented on how the claim of homophobic states of ‘defending native traditions and culture against values imported from the west’ is losing ground, as more and more countries from the Global South (like, Rwanda, the Central African Republic, Sierra Leone and, the overwhelming majority of Latin American countries, and Asian countries like Nepal, Mongolia and Timor Leste) condemn persecution on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Also the knowledge of the colonial origin of most homophobic laws is reaching greater sections of the general public everywhere, they concluded.
According to attending lawyer Matthew Davies, partner of Wilson Solicitors LLP, one of the firms sponsoring the report and event:
“There has been much to concern us in the last 12 months but also much to be hopeful for. LGBT activists in Africa can look to the progress made in South America over recent years, and the potential that flows from the uprisings in the Middle East, to know that human dignity will ultimately triumph over repression".Wesley Gryk, senior partner of Wesley Gryk Solicitors LLP, whose firm is also a sponsor, commented:
"The role which ILGA plays in monitoring the progress - and the setbacks - with respect to the institutionalized governmental homophobia is key to everyone who supports and works for the development of LGBTI rights. Changing governments and their institutions is often a necessary first step to changing the attitudes of the people these governments represent."
“The day is not far, when homophobia and transphobia will be considered everywhere as they should – with the same abhorrence currently reserved to sexism and racism, and no amount of self-serving rhetoric will prevent the wall of state-sponsored homophobia from crumbling”, add Careaga and Sabbadini in the foreword.
“We cannot but express gratitude and admiration for the courage of all those activists that risk their lives and security to build a better world, where all human rights are truly for all.”ILGA State Sponsored Homophobia 2011