March 19, 2009
By Rady Ananda
On March 18th, U.S. President Barack Obama signed the United Nations General Assembly Statement calling for the protection and decriminalization of sexual minorities, “LGBTIs” (lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgendered and intersexed). Bush declined to do so at the December 2008 UN meeting when 66 UN member states signed on.
Louis-George Tin, the grassroots activist who initiated the project in 2006, was reserved in his approval of Obama’s action. “This support is a crucial step. But only if the United States commits itself to support the text actively, i.e. encouraging all their allies to sign it, as well.”
Speaking in December, UN High Commissioner on Human Rights Navi Pillay explained, “Many of these laws, like Apartheid laws that criminalized sexual relations between consenting adults of different races, are relics of the colonial [era] and are increasingly recognized as anachronistic and as inconsistent both with international law and with traditional values of dignity, inclusion and respect for all.”
LGBTIs continue to be the target of murder, rape and imprisonment. State-sanctioned violence against sexual minorities has a long and brutal history here in the U.S. as well as in most Western-colonized nations in Africa and the Middle East. Iran officially asserts homosexuality does not exist within its population and Nigeria is currently debating a bill to ban marriage of its “nonexistent” Q population.
On May 17th of this year, a world congress against homophobia will be held in Paris, announced Rama Yade, French Secretary of State for International Affairs and Human Rights. Five nations recognize International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO), held each year on May 17th, the day when in 1990 the World Health Organization decided to remove homosexuality from its list of mental disorders.
The recognition of human rights for sexual minorities becomes more urgent as the practice of “corrective rape” spreads from South Africa to other African nations known for using rape as a weapon of war against women and girls age one to ninety. Whether ordered to or not, the mental illness of such twisted hatred toward women goes a step further in these misogynistic patriarchies, where rape victims are banished or stoned to death. Confronting these issues is itself risky: in February, a journalist was kidnapped, stripped and made to parade naked through Kenema, Sierra Leone. Her crime was reporting on female genital mutilation.
As the US puts on a happy face for the LGBTI community worldwide, it will need to revisit its own laws and policies that ban equal treatment of lesbians and gays. In only two states can same-sex citizens marry each other. The California Supreme Court is set to announce its ruling on the challenge to Proposition 8 which bans same-sex marriage.
Obama has reportedly promised to revoke “Don’t Ask; Don’t Tell,” the absurd military policy that prefers to believe all its members are heterosexual, to its detriment. West Point graduates formed Knights Out, a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender alumni group, which recently issued a statement pledging “to serve as a critical support and advocacy group for the full acceptance of gay service members, particularly at West Point.”