Sunday, 17 May 2009

We're all in IDAHO now

Today is IDAHO: International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia, and being from the Caribbean, boy am I glad this day exists as an internationally-recognized occasion around which we can advocate for people to stop the hateful nonsense that is homophobia and transphobia. From the IDAHO UK website:

[IDAHO] was founded by Louis Georges Tin in 2005. Campaigns and Initi[a]tives take place on or around May 17th every year to combat prejudice against LGBT people. May 17th is chosen because it marks the anniversary of the day in 1990 when the World Health Organisation removed homosexuality from its list of mental diseases.

IDAHO is needed because: 86 member states of the United Nations still criminalise consensual same sex among adults. Among these 7 have legal provisions with the death penalty as punishment. In addition, there are 6 provinces or territorial units which also punish hom[o]sexuality with imprisonment.

IDAHO day can also be celebratory because all over the world people are fighting against the persecution of LGBT people and are involved in positive initiatives and campaigns which can be celebrated and give hope for the future.


This year the IDAHO theme is "End Transphobia: Respect Gender Identity". Please sign the petition to support this campaign.

In December 2008 a declaration against homophobia and gender identity discrimination was finally heard at the General Assembly of the United Nations.

The website also lists IDAHO events in the UK by region, and you can see what else is going on worldwide here.

Amid growing calls in the international activist community to boycott tourism and products that would benefit 'homophobic countries' - on the list of which Jamaica features high - Barbados too has been censured in a recent shadow report "for its criminalisation of same-sex sexual activity and the violation of the rights of lesbian[s], gay[s], bisexual[s] and transgender[ed people] (LGBT)." While I think that the types of boycotts mentioned are often ill-conceived and counter-productive (if you want to change public attitudes towards the LGBT community, maintaining the already poor in poverty is not the way to do it), and based on the absurd notion that for example Jamaica is one homogeneous society thinking and acting as one, I do believe that properly-implemented action by the international community is one of the ways to develop political will among these countries' own governments to effect change from within. Tying development aid or representation on certain international bodies to the proven enforcement of human rights conventions is one place to start, and while it is not the place of the US or any other country to wholly dictate cultural values to another country, it is certainly the place of all of us to expose institutionalized bigotry and hate in countries that claim to promote human freedoms for all.

And positive momentum is already building. Barbados, with a highly-educated young population who acknowledge the value of complete civil freedoms, is fully engaged in a discussion on LGBT rights. While there is a significant, religion-led voice that would seek to withhold these rights - as there is in the US (let us acknowledge that this is not some purely 'third world' scourge as some would represent), there is also a progressive, politically savvy community that is becoming less afraid to support the LGBT struggle for equality. And this community is growing, and becoming more equipped to expose the insularity and fear that are at the root of most of the anti-gay arguments.

So on this IDAHO, I feel hopeful and encouraged to continue to advocate alongside and in support of LGBT individuals, especially in my corner of the world, one of the places it is most needed. I think that with our commitment, truth, justice and - let's face it - plain common sense and decency will win.

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