Homosexual Persecution in the Non-Western World
Whilst there has been progress towards recognising LGBTIQA rights in the West, in other parts of the world there have been substantial regressions.
In fact, some states are hardening their stance against homosexuality by classifying it as a crime.
For instance, Dennis Altman’s article, “How to Spread Gay Rights Beyond the West”, notes that Ethiopia has tightened its laws against homosexuality by imposing sentences of up to 15 years imprisonment for convicted homosexuals.
Altman also refers to a recent documentary, “Born this Way”, which reveals the increased violence and persecution faced by those perceived as not conforming to “normal gender stereotypes” in Cameroon.
Other African countries have implemented “corrective rape” for lesbians, and in Russia laws have been introduced to criminalise “homosexual propaganda” (essentially any public display which advocates a non-heterosexual lifestyle) in order to protect minors and preserve “traditional values”.
Russia’s Anti-Gay Propaganda Law
The case of Russia reveals how these laws can be motivated by political goals, such as currying favour with particular socio-economic groups within a nation.
For instance, Russia’s anti-gay propaganda laws were received favourably by conservative and rural populations within the country, ensuring greater political support for President Vladimir Putin.
Instances of public crisis also tend to invigorate extremist fringe groups within a country, such as ultra nationalists or religious fundamentalists.
For instance, the economic crisis in Greece has led to strong support for the fascist Golden Dawn party, which became the party with the third largest amount of seats in parliament in 2012. Supporters of this group tend to be strongly, and often violently, anti-homosexual.
In 2012 Golden Dawn supporters violently attacked attendees at a theatre showing Corpus Christi (which depicts Jesus Christ and his followers as gay men). This group continues to see strong support in Greece, winning 17 seats in the January 2015 election. The Greek example reflects the unfortunate truth that extremism tends to flourish in periods of crisis.
The Role of International Law
The protection of individual rights is enshrined within international law. This can be found in a number of documents such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.
Article 7 of the UDHR states:
“ALL are EQUAL before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.”
Whilst a number of international conventions exist that affirm the right to equal treatment before the law, the above examples illustrate that a number of nations fail to abide to the spirit of international law (let alone the black letter) and have subjected their own citizens to violent persecution.
In part, this reveals the ineffectiveness of international law in protecting individuals when sovereign nations fail to implement ratified international law doctrines into domestic law.
Persecution on the basis of sexual orientation has forced a number of LGBTIQA people to flee and seek asylum in other countries due to the extreme danger of residing in their native land.
The International Response
In relation to the LGBTIQA community, the United Nations (UN) has recently created the Free & Equal Campaign for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Equality to raise awareness of homophobia and transphobia. In doing so, this campaign aims to ensure that LGBTIQA people are treated with equality and respect throughout the world.
Another way in which the international community has recognised LGBTIQA rights has been through the commemoration of gender and sexual diversity in the form of the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia which is held annually on May 17th.
The purpose of this campaign is to put pressure on policymakers, social movements, the general public and the media to highlight the violence and discrimination faced by the LGBTIQA people internationally. May 17th is celebrated in more than 130 countries, including 37 where same-sex acts are illegal.
This campaign emphasises that human rights are for everyone, irrespective of sexual orientation or gender identity.
This message has been further emphasised by UN officials of the highest ranking. Ban Ki Moon has stated “we are all different from one another, but we all have the same human rights. I am proud to stand for the equality of all people – including those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.”
His statement reflects a commitment to the recognition of LGBTIQA rights that will hopefully resonate strongly with the international community.
Click on the links below for full articles and websites regarding this topic:
International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia & Biphobia
Prejudice and Ignorance Drive Discrimination, UN Human Rights Chief
The Riddle: New Anti-Homophobia Message from UN Human Rights Office
The Drum ‘How to Spread Gay Rights beyond the West’