Helen Clark: In more than seventy countries, homosexuality is still criminalized

May 17, 2012

Today is the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO). It commemorates the World Health Organisation’s decision in 1990 to remove homosexuality from the list of mental disorders. That was indeed a milestone, and since then there has been much progress. Last year, the Human Rights Council passed their first resolution ever on “Human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity”. An historic study documenting discriminatory laws and practices and acts of violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity was produced by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and debated by the Council.

While many governments have extended equal civil rights to all, irrespective of sexual orientation or gender identity, inequities persist. In more than seventy countries, homosexuality is still criminalized, and in many more same-sex unions are not recognised. Transgendered men and women across the world are excluded from educational opportunities and employment. Gays and lesbians are discriminated against, persecuted, excluded, imprisoned and killed – simply for being who they are. Sadly, many young men and women take their own lives before even daring to speak their truth.

The United Nations Development Programme supports initiatives which promote understanding of the negative impact of homophobia and transphobia, and reduce human rights violations. Our experts have been working with governments and civil society organizations around the globe to monitor rights violations against LGBT people, document their impact on access to HIV prevention, counseling, treatment and care, and support rights-based responses for LGBT. Over the last eighteen months, the Global Commission on HIV and the Law, convened by UNDP, has examined evidence on the relationship between legal environments, human rights, and HIV for men who have sex with men and transgender people.

In Latin America, UNDP has supported REDLAC Trans, a regional network of transgender people to address stigma and discrimination which are barriers to effective HIV programming. In Argentina, UNDP, in partnership with a number of UN agencies, supported REDLAC Trans to engage in a legal reform process which resulted in a Gender Identity Law guaranteeing the rights of transgender people.

In India, UNDP is supporting the “Bolo India” initiative which is an on-line collection of oral histories from the Indian LGBT community. Bolo India challenges homophobia and transphobia by providing positive LGBT role models and sharing the life experiences of LGBT people.

Within its own organisation, UNDP does not tolerate discrimination or stigma. The human rights for all which we promote in our work are also a solid foundation for the way we relate to each other. We need to continue making sure that our entire work force is respected and supported, including gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered colleagues.

‘Empowered Lives. Resilient Nations’ is UNDP’s motto. As we commemorate IDAHO, be assured that UNDP will continue to work to empower all individuals to fulfill their potential. Only by including and empowering all can we truly have resilient nations and sustainable human development.

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