UN INTERNATIONAL DAY
Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia
17 May 2023
‘In a fair and just society, no one is left behind’ Violeta TOMIĆ, General Rapporteur on the Rights of LGBTI People
Every year, on the 17th of May, the world celebrates the International Day against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia. The United Nations set aside the day on the 17th May 2005 after a year-long campaign which started in 2004 wherein various organisations and individuals came together and conceived the idea. Originally, the day only recognised homophobia, with transphobia being added in 2009 and biphobia in 2015. The 17th of May is significant because it was on this day in 1990, that the World Health Organisation (WHO) declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder.
The purpose of the day
The purpose of the day is to celebrate diversity and raise awareness of violence, discrimination suffered by the LGBTIQ+ communities and how it impacts on human rights. This year’s theme ‘Together always: United in diversity’ is very appropriate in the Zimbabwean context where the mantra is ‘Leaving no one behind.’
UN Secretary-General António Guterres Message
As we mark the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia, we face a stark fact. In every corner of the world, LGBTQI+ people continue to face violence, persecution, hate speech, injustice and even outright murder. Meanwhile, retrograde laws continue to criminalize LGBTQI+ people around the world, punishing them for simply being who they are. Each assault on LGBTQI+ people is an assault on human rights and the values we hold dear. We cannot and will not move backwards. The United Nations firmly stands with the LGBTQI+ community, and will continue working until human rights and dignity are a reality for all people. I renew my call to all Member States to uphold the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and end the criminalization of consensual same-sex relations and transgender people. Being yourself should never be a crime. In keeping with this year’s theme — “Together Always: United in Diversity” — I call on the world to speak with one voice to eliminate the stigma, discrimination, harmful practices, and often deadly violence endured by LGBTQI+ people. Human rights are non-negotiable. They belong to every member of the human family — no matter who they are or whom they love. Let’s continue working to build a peaceful, just world in which all people are free and equal in dignity and rights.
United Nations Resolutions to Mandate an Independent Expert
An Independent Expert on sexual orientation and gender identity was mandated to explore ways to better protect persons who suffer from violence and discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity by a Un Resolution on July 2019 and renewed in 2022. The mandate is carried out through:
- Assessing implementation of human rights standards
- Identifying best practices and gaps
- Raising awareness of those issue
- Identifying and addressing the root cause of violence and discrimination
- Engaging in dialogue and consulting States and other relevant stakeholders to foster the protection of LGBT and gender diverse persons
- Facilitating and supporting the provision the provision of advisory services, technical assistance, capacity building to combat violence and discrimination.
International and Regional Obligations
At international level, Zimbabwe is a signatory to various international instruments such as The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, (UDHR), International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). These conventions are explicit on the right of every person to life, privacy, health, equality before the law inclusive of the right to freedom of expression and freedom from discrimination, violence and torture.
At regional level, Zimbabwe is a signatory to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR) and the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol) which all emphasise the aspect of equality, non-discrimination, privacy and health. The Maputo Protocol goes further to guarantee elimination of all forms of discrimination against women irrespective of sexual orientation.
The Constitution and the Law
The Constitution of Zimbabwe guarantees a wide range of fundamental rights such as the right to equality and non-discrimination, right to personal security, right to human dignity, right to privacy and freedom from torture.
The non-discrimination clause extends to nationality, race, colour, tribe sex, age, pregnancy, disability, class, language, gender, opinion, culture amongst other grounds but does not include sexual orientation or gender identity.
The LGBTIQ+ community continues to experience human rights violations especially discrimination and violence.
As we take time to reflect on the true essence of humanity from an African perspective, there is need to put the human first before the sexual orientation or gender identity to uphold the true meaning of ‘ubuntu’. We must respect humanity in all its variety and implement real change to achieve equality. Human rights are not for some people, human rights are for all people.