Tuesday, 13 May 2008

International Day Against Homophobia marked in Kemp Town

LGBT and human rights campaigners are holding a rally to mark 'IDAHOBIT' (International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia) on the Kemp Town beach this Saturday, May 17th, next to the Volks' railway half-way station and 'Peter Pan's playground'.

There are still 77 countries across the world where homosexuality is a crime punishable by imprisonment or even execution - a direct affront to international human rights law, which guarantees everyone's right to life, privacy within the family and freedom from discrimination in the eyes of the law.

We shouldn't put up with this. Our government, and others in the so-called 'Liberal West', should make respect for international human rights law a central plank of an enlightened foreign policy.

The trouble is our own record isn't so squeaky clean. We can hardly demand everyone else respects international law fully when we are breaking the same rules in Iraq, Afghanistan - and even Berkshire, where the Government has given the go-ahead to building the next generation of nuclear weapons in clear breach of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

So not only do we not speak up about human rights abuses and homophobic discrimination elsewhere, we are actively complicit. Take the case of lesbian Pegah Emambakhsh. The Home Office wants to deport her to Iran, where she faces arrest and, possibly, being stoned to death, for her sexuality.

It's no surprise that conservative and neo-fascist regimes in Iran, China, Eastern Europe and even Berlusconi's Italy, continue to harass, abuse and discriminate against their citizens on the basis of their sexuality. That our Labour Government is up to its neck in it and refusing to campaign against it daily is much more shocking.

It really is time for a renewed international campaign on human rights. In the last century nations came together after the Second World War and developed a network of treaties, UN bodies and other international legal mechanisms to make sure its horrors were never repeated. Every new protection was hard won, and the system was far from perfect. Many nations (including those mentioned above who sill criminalise homosexuality) simply ignored the law.

But it was still considered a universal system, with broad support from around the world. The first decade of this century though has been marked by a weakening of the international legal system. Every breach - an invasion of a sovereign nations like Iraq or Somalia, for example, or a public statement of support for new nuclear technology - makes it that little bit easier for everyone else to ignore it too.

Green Party Euro-MP Caroline Lucas (who pollsters have predicted will win the Brighton Pavilion MP contest at the next general election) will be speaking at the rally (alongside Michelle Bridgeman of the Gender Trust and Melvin Hartley of Broken Rainbow). She will be using her speech to call for genuinely ethical foreign and asylum policies in the UK, and just such a renewed campaign for international human rights. I think she's spot on.

As well as the speeches, the IDAHOBIT rally will feature music from the City of Brighton Gay Men’s Chorus and the Rainbow Chorus, and a visually spectacular display of 77 stunning sky lanterns, one for every nation in which homosexuality remains a criminal offence.

It really fills me with pride to live in a community that cares enough about discrimination and human rights to even host such an event. I hope there'll be a good turnout.

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