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The United Nations Human Rights Office has produced a video in an apparent push to step up pressure on countries that engage in criminalizing and victimizing their LGBT populations. The result is simple yet powerful and sends a clear message to its members that it is paying attention to human rights abuses around the world.
What exists in every corner of the world? Embraced and celebrated in some countries, but is illegal in 76. What is hidden for fear of public shame, imprisonment, torture, or in seven countries, even the death penalty? What tears families apart? What makes people confront brutal violence on a daily basis? What simple trait gets people treated as second class citizens everywhere they go? What gets children kicked out of homes, students bullied and expelled from schools, and workers fired from jobs without warning? What has existed in every country throughout history that some people still consider abnormal? The answer? Being gay. Being lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. All over the world, millions of people face violence and discrimination just for being who they are. Every nation is obligated by international human rights law to protect all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from torture, discrimination and violence. The United Nations has one simple message to the millions of LGBT people around the world: you are not alone. You are not alone. LGBT rights are human rights. LGBT rights are human rights. Together, we will build a world that is free and equal.I applaud the United Nations for taking this bold step. However, it must be followed by clear action. The General Assembly of the UN adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10, 1948. The preamble reads as follows.
Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,The United Nations first began discussing the previously taboo subject of LGBT rights back in the 80s during the height of the global AIDS pandemic. It wouldn't be until 1994 when the Human Rights Committee took up a complaint called Toonen v. Australia that real movement began at the United Nations on LGBT human rights abuses.
Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,
Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,
Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations,
Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,
Whereas Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in co-operation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms,
Whereas a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest importance for the full realization of this pledge,
Now, Therefore THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY proclaims THIS UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.
In 1991, Nicholas Toonen, a homosexual man from Tasmania, sent a communication to the Human Rights Committee. At that time homosexual sex was criminalized in Tasmania. Toonen argued that this violated his right to privacy under Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). He also argued that because the law discriminated against homosexuals on the basis of their sexuality, it violated Article 26. As a result of his complaint to the Human Rights Committee, Toonen lost his job as General Manager of the Tasmanian AIDS Council (Inc), because the Tasmanian Government threatened to withdraw the Council’s funding unless Toonen was fired. The Human Rights Committee did not consider Toonen’s communication until 1994, but it ultimately agreed that because of Tasmania’s law, Australia was in breach of the obligations under the treaty. In response to the Commission’s view, the Commonwealth Government passed a law overriding Tasmania’s criminalization of homosexual sex.Progress continued when in 2003, the Brazilian Resolution was introduced, the text of which calls for the ban of all discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. In 2008 France and the Netherlands, with the backing of the European Union, proposed a resolution to include LGBT rights under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The resolution was immediately signed by 34 countries. By 2011, when the UN Human Rights Office at the initiation of South Africa published the first official UN report on violence and discrimination against LGBT people, that number had grown to 85.
The UN Human Rights Council will convene in Geneva from May 27 through June 14. One of the top agenda items will focus on countries who continue to show hostility and violence against their LGBT people. Human Rights activists are calling for the Council to move past debating with these countries whether LGBT rights are human rights and begin discussion of what steps might be taken against countries that refuse to protect all of their people from human rights abuses. The time for action is now.
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