State or socially sanctioned discrimination against people who are homosexual or who are labelled as homosexual takes place in many countries across the world. Many people who are subjected to homophobic bullying or violence may not even identify as gay or lesbian. Schoolboys who are called “sissy” or abused for “playing like a girl”; girls labelled as tomboys; transgender women and men abused or beaten for their gender identity – are all victims of homophobia.
The United Nations is being petitioned to make this day official. The day was endorsed by the European Parliament in January, when it passed a motion condemning homophobia. In the meantime, a wide number of events are taking place in other countries. In Canada, where the idea was launched, there is considerable public support. In the United Kingdom, a motion supporting the day has been tabled in the House of Commons, and a one-minute silence is being observed. In New Zealand unfortunately, IDAHO has received little publicity.
New Zealand has supported international attempts to fight discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. In 2005 New Zealand led a group of 33 countries in issuing a statement urging the United Nations Human Rights Commission to recognise sexual orientation as “a status protected against discrimination”, which it has still refused to do. The current government has done much to support minority communities over the last few years, and has generally supported positive human rights initiatives. We wish that they would always have the courage of their convictions and publicise such actions more widely than they did on this occasion.
Elsewhere things are very different. Homosexuality remains totally illegal in many countries across the world, punishable by a range of penalties, including in some cases death. This situation is prevalent in Africa and Asia, and to a lesser extent in the Pacific. In Fiji for example, gay men are still being arrested for consensual sex, even though the courts have ruled this law unconstitutional. Even in countries such as the United States, legally backed discrimination is on the increase. The legal recognition of same sex relationships in the US is strongly opposed by right-wing religious fundamentalists.
Allan- John Marsh of Gap says, “We in New Zealand can celebrate our legal rights in New Zealand, including recognition of our relationships, but GAP believes that we should support our brothers and sisters in other countries, who are often in terrible situations. We are supporters and members of the International Lesbian and Gay Association, ILGA, which is leading the international battle to end state-sanctioned discrimination. And while our situation is better, it is not perfect. Discrimination still exists in many areas, like the extent of homophobic bullying in our schools. Attempts to deal with this and other issues are frequently weakened by the demands that “people have a right to disapprove”. We believe that the exercise of that right of expression ignores the harm such attitude causes, especially to vulnerable young people. Every incident of homophobic violence against people who are seen as different is fuelled by hate speech.” Nobody should be able to cl
GAP hopes that New Zealanders will observe this International Day Against Homophobia, and continue along the path of ensuring that homosexual people here and throughout the world can live in freedom without fear.
The New Zealand led statement to the United Nations can be viewed at:
GAP – the Wellington Rainbow Network is a Wellington based group which provides a vehicle for social, political and business direction and networking within the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities.