Rebeca Grynspan: Message on the International Day Against Homophobia

May 17, 2011

Since the World Health Organization’s landmark determination 21 years ago today that homosexuality does not constitute a disorder, we have seen significant progress in combating anti-homosexuality, but much work still lies ahead.  Eighty nations worldwide—more than 40 percent of all countries—still keep laws on the books that criminalize same-sex relations, which are in some instances punishable by life imprisonment or the death penalty.

In many countries, merely defending the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people is a dangerous venture. In the last five months alone, the world lost activists David Kato and Noxola Nogwaza, murdered for breaking the silence surrounding the human rights of these groups in Africa.

Stigma, prejudice, and repression pervasively undermine human rights and inflict grave harm not only on individuals but on development as well.

Homophobia curbs the capacity of individuals to realize their aspirations and potential. Discrimination and harassment in families, schools, workplaces, and the military on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity lead people to drop-out of school, prevent them from getting jobs and inhibits millions across the globe from seeking crucial health services.

The United Nations Development Programme supports initiatives that help countries better understand the negative impact of homophobia and transphobia and reduce human rights violations. 
Our experts have been working with governments and civil society organizations across the globe to monitor rights violations against LGBT people and document their impact on access to HIV prevention, counseling, treatment and care.

Working in a partnership with the Pan American Health Organization and other UN agencies, UNDP documented the challenges and discrimination faced by transgender people in Latin America, including their plights with governments to demand justice and services.

In Papua New Guinea, we are supporting a legal reform process that addresses barriers to HIV programming within LGBT community, while in Senegal our efforts to combat anti-homosexuality have prompted the Government to set up a monitoring task force for abuses against LGBT people.

Since that World Health Assembly landmark decision in 1990 a significant number of countries have repealed laws criminalizing homosexuality and several have enacted laws to protect LGBT people.

Law alone, however, cannot eliminate discrimination and disempowerment.  It must be accompanied by political will, at the highest levels, to challenge intolerance.

Next month, when world leaders gather at the United Nations to review progress toward universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, and care, they will have a unique opportunity to make a resolute call for action to end discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity as well as the homophobia and transphobia that harm us all, inflicting a devastating toll on human development. They must seize this opportunity.

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