The Battle For Legal Rights For Gay And Transgender People Likened To Anti-Apartheid Fight
A few weeks ago, a United Nations declaration to stop violence against people due to their sexuality or gender identity was signed by a vast proportion of member states, but not the United States. Now a South African representative has stated her staunch disapproval of the continued prejudice that homosexuals face throughout the world.
A Statement on Equal Rights for Homosexuals
At a UN meeting in New York, South African campaigner Navanethem Pillay, a woman who stands in history as one of the prominent figures who went against apartheid through her self-established law office, spoke out saying she was dismayed that so many countries still “criminalize sexual relations between consenting adults of the same sex in defiance of established human rights law.”
The UN declaration that preceded this statement, which, whilst not being legally binding does set precedent for future legislation and, at present, reaffirms the Human Rights legislation already in place and re-establishes its reach in encompassing homosexuals and transgender people, has drawn widespread attention throughout the world.
The declaration was signed by 66 countries, including the French, Brazilian and Argentinean governments, but many Muslim and African states protested the paper’s universality when it came to rights for women, homosexuals and transgender individuals, citing that it forces beliefs upon them that are not supported by their religion.
Laws Against Homosexuals the Same as Apartheid?
Pillay, through the Argentinean Ambassador who read her statement to the Assembly, went on to draw parallels between the legal discrimination against homosexuals and apartheid, saying:
“Ironically many of these laws, like apartheid laws that criminalized sexual relations between consenting adults of different races, are relics of the colonial era. … It is our task and our challenge to move beyond a debate on whether all human beings have rights–for such questions were long ago laid to rest by the Universal Declaration–and instead to secure the climate for implementation.”
It is estimated that there are more than 72 countries still with legislation outlawing sex between consenting adults of the same gender, according to the International Lesbian and Gay Association.
Opposition Statements on Rights for Gays
This statement also coincided with the Pope’s Christmas address which condemned homosexuality as being a threat to civilization, as great as the problem of climate change. The Vatican also opposed the declaration initially, before affirming that it did not condone violence against any persons. Amongst the Pope’s many statements during his address, one was:
“It is not out-of-date metaphysics to speak of human nature as ‘man’ or woman’. It comes from the language of creation, despising [that] which would mean self-destruction for humans.”
Although not in direct response to this, Pillay’s statement on gay rights seemed to echo a response when, in her closing remarks, she said:
“The ageless cliché that everyone is equal but some are more equal than others is not acceptable.”
And with the war over Proposition 8 still raging, the issue of GLBT rights seems set to be a prevalent topic worldwide throughout 2009.
If you are interested in starting the New Year off by helping to secure equal rights for gay people across America, consider signing this petition and make a difference right now.