There’s no need to wait until the end of the year to label 2013 as an important year for LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) people. Some countries have taken legislative measures to restrict gay rights, while others have shown positive developments, mostly in relation to marriage equality. France, Uruguay, Great Britain, and New Zealand have all legalized same-sex marriage earlier this year. To date 15 countries allow gay-marriage and many countries and regions are in the process of adopting legislation. Research in the US has shown that the spread of same-sex marriage laws has coincided with rapidly shifting public attitudes toward homosexuality. In other words, equal marriage has advanced the most in countries where homosexuality is most accepted.
Despite these positive developments, homosexuality remains criminalized in more than 76 countries, with death penalty as a result in seven of those. Prosecution, ‘corrective’ rape, murder, death penalty, and human rights violations in relation to LGBT’s are far from eradicated. Plus, the spread of HIV is 10 times larger in countries where homosexuality is illegal, according to COC Nederland. The horrific situations LGBT communities face in certain countries make it hard to understand that some countries are seeking to impose further restrictions on their rights. Russia’s newly-passed legislation outlawing public declarations of homosexuality has raised many eyebrows. And Russia is not the only country that has recently adopted anti-gay rights laws; several African states are currently trying to tighten control. Besides that, discrimination and hate crime against gay couples is still ever-present, even in countries where LGBT-rights are acknowledged by law.
Many leaders in society have publically spoken out against the anti-gay propaganda law, in particular with regards to the potential boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. US runner Nick Symmonds was the first athlete to denounce the anti-gay propaganda law during the world athletics championship in Moscow, whilst still on Russian soil. And US President Obama said: “nobody’s more offended than me by some of the anti-gay and lesbian legislation that you’ve been seeing in Russia.” Although he didn’t consider an Olympic boycott ‘appropriate’. Even the Pope made some surprisingly progressive comments during the world Catholic youth festival in Rio de Janeiro last July; he said “Who am I to judge a gay person of goodwill who seeks the Lord?” The importance of the participation of public figures in the international debate should not be underestimated. Their opinions are fuel for the (digital) debate and can provoke outrage, as Russian pole-vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva showed us last week when she spoke in favour of Russia’s new anti-gay legislation.
Related: Rainbow Nails Spark Debate in Moscow
To me, it’s crucial that people are treated without prejudice. Equality for the LGBT community, that’s what it’s all about. Imposing legislative restrictions means regression; it feeds stigma and encourages abuse. The state is meant to protect its citizens – especially minority-groups – against discrimination of any sort. Instigating hatred by legislation goes against the fundamentals of international human rights law. Homophobia stems from fear and ignorance which can only be eliminated by education.LGBT-rights should be a high priority on the world’s agenda. United Nations Secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon said in his speech in December 2011. “Let me say this loud and clear: lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are entitled to the same rights as everyone else. They, too, are born free and equal. I stand shoulder-to-shoulder with them in their struggle for human rights.” The head of the UN Secretariat strongly supports equality and non-discrimination. After all it is about love, let people be free.
The following is a selection of powerful pictures that define certain events that have made this year already such a turbulent one in terms of LGBT-rights.