Archive for ‘United Nations’

April 18, 2012

Break The Silence!

A few weeks ago I was privileged to be a consultant to a group started by Jeremy Steffan Edwards and comprised of young people who, spurred by yet another teen suicide in Trinidad and countless others around the world, decided that enough was enough and that they would make a difference. Sitting in that first meeting held at a conference table at the University of the West Indies I looked at the young faces and listened to them emphatically stating that young people being driven to despair because they were lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered or questioning  was not acceptable and I can’t really describe how proud I felt and how full of hope for the future.

Out of a series of meetings the George Kasanjian Foundation which later became The Silver Lining Foundation was born.  Driven by some of the most passionate young people I have met in recent years the group has finally crafted its mission statement and vision statement.

MISSION STATEMENT

The Silver Lining Foundation is committed to facilitating safe access to the relevant psychological, sexual, medical, recreational and media resources necessary to educate, equip and empower youth to deal with difficulties regarding sexual orientation and gender identity/expression.

VISION STATEMENT

To create an environment conducive to respect and self acceptance, and to provide a support system for marginalized youth regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression, leading to a sustainable and functional Life.

It has also embarked on a project that will be a first for T&T – a Day of Silence which will be  observed on Friday. Those participating will tape their mouths and hand out cards to others on campus explaining the purpose of the group. The Trinidad Guardian published an excellent article on the day here.

This might seem like a small act to achieve a very big change – and it is – but it is a start and it will mark  a major turning point in the fight for LGBTQ kids to be given the dignity and respect that they deserve as equal human beings. This is also being done in a country in the English speaking Caribbean – not normally viewed as an especially tolerant environment for such vulnerable kids. In practice T&T is nowhere as unwelcoming as say Jamaica but there are still discriminatory ( though rarely enforced) rules on the books and LGBT people face discrimination on a daily basis simply because of who they are.

2012 will go down as an interesting year for us with this inspiring project by The Silver Lining Foundation and by CAISO  which has embarked on a series of  weekly meetings to push equality onto the national agenda ( I am on the – wait for it – Media Committee).  This could be the start of something really good.

January 4, 2012

Excellent video – The Story of Human Rights

Via  I AM EQUAL

Really good video explaining the history of human rights and how each of us has a role in ensuring we all have dignity and justice.

December 31, 2011

What a year it was. Google’s 2011 Zeitgeist

What an incredible bit of video editing and also a reminder of how much  my knowledge has expanded because of my wonderful friends on G+ these past few months. This is not my New Year’s message but this video is a great opportunity to pause and reflect on what a remarkable year of  triumph, tragedy and  a celebration of the human spirit 2011 was.

December 15, 2011

Another milestone in an already hugely significant year.

As the year winds to a close the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has released a report on “Discriminatory laws and practices and acts of violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity” that is pretty earthshaking by UN standards. Considering that so many countries who are UN members criminalize same-sex activity and/or relationships – in some cases with the death penalty it is almost remarkable that the High Commissioner has taken such an unequivocal stand in the subject.

The report is available online in PDF format and can be downloaded here. It makes the position of the UN very clear:

In all regions, people experience violence and discrimination because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. In many cases, even the perception of homosexuality or transgender identity puts people at risk. Violations include but are not limited to killings, rape and physical attacks, torture, arbitrary detention, the denial of rights to assembly, expression and information, and discrimination in employment, health and education. United Nations mechanisms, including human rights treaty bodies and the special procedures of the Human Rights Council, have documented such violations for close to two decades.

The report notes what so many nations have failed to note – that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights also applies  to LGBT people.

The application of international human rights law is guided by the principles of universality and non-discrimination enshrined in article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that
all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and . All people, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons, are entitled to enjoy the protections provided for by international human rights law, including in respect of rights to life, security of person and privacy, the right to be free from torture, arbitrary arrest and detention, the right to be free from discrimination and the right to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly. The Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action confirms that, while the significance of national and regional particularities and various historical, cultural and religious backgrounds must be borne in mind, it is the duty of States, regardless of their political, economic and cultural systems, to promote and protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms.”3

It goes on to point out that though sexual orientation or gender identity might not be specifically spelled out in UN documents as a grounds for protection, like age, marital status and numerous other grounds, they are covered :

The specific grounds of discrimination referred to in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and other human rights treaties are not exhaustive. The drafters intentionally left the grounds of discrimination open

The specific grounds of discrimination referred to in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and other human rights treaties are not exhaustive. The drafters intentionally left the grounds of discrimination open

by using the phrase “other status. Sexual orientation and gender identity, like disability, age and health status, are not explicitly mentioned among the grounds listed in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights or the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. In 1994, in the case of , the Human Rights Committee held that States are obligated to protect individuals from discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientationThis position is reflected in later decisions of the Committee and in general comments of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Committee on the Rights of the Child, the Committee against Torture and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.6

For those who think the argument for protection is purely philosophical, the report documents the disturbing reality that LGBT people lose their lives  simply  for being who they are – including one incident in Jamaica.

Since 1999, the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions has regularly referred to persons being subjected to death threats or killed because of sexual orientation and gender identity.

The current mandate holder recently highlighted the murders of at least 31 LGBT persons in Honduras during an 18-month period, including a transgender person found dead in a ditch, her body beaten and burned, showing evidence of rape and blows to her face from stoning so severe as to render the remains virtually unrecognizable.In Jamaica, a man was allegedly stabbed and stoned to death after police, who reportedly participated in the attack, urged others to beat him because he was homosexualThe Special Rapporteur on violence against women has highlighted the targeted murder of lesbians in South Africa, including a case in which two lesbians were beaten, stoned and one stabbed to death

LGBT persons are also among the victims of so-called
honour killings, carried out against those seen by family or community members to have brought shame or dishonour on a family, often for transgressing gender norms or for sexual behaviour, including actual or assumed same-sex sexual activity. While women are generally the targets of this sort of punishment, these attacks can be directed at individuals of any sex

Reports from regional and non-governmental organizations point to a pattern of targeted violence.

The African Commission on Human and Peoples‟ Rights noted “an upsurge of intolerance against sexual minorities” in Cameroon, and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has repeatedly addressed related concerns in Latin America and the CaribbeanOSCE reported 44 bias-motivated murders of LGBT persons in 2009.

November 20, 2011

Mista Majah P shows that some Jamaicans stand up for their rights.

Thanks to his comment on my blog I can post the Mista Majah response to  Bruce Golding’s  homophobic remarks about LGBT people.

 

March 25, 2011

Another troubling proposed UN resolution – this time from South Africa

Via Mail & Guardian

“The resolution calls for an “open-ended intergovernmental working group to elaborate [on] new concepts such as sexual orientation”, and “decides that the aforementioned working group shall be the single modality and framework of the United Nations Human Rights Council within which all the deliberations on sexual orientation … shall be undertaken”.

The proposal has riled South African and international human rights and gay rights activists. Said Zackie Achmat, co-founder of the Social Justice Coalition: “As it stands the resolution would be unconstitutional.”

Read the article here.

February 4, 2011

ILGA turned down again by UN Economic and Social Council.

The International Lesbian,Gay , Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association ( ILGA) has once again been turned down for membership in the UN’s Economic and Social Council. Inner City Press is reporting the vote  on the application was proposed by Belgium but Sudan immediately countered that the application should not be considered.

When the dust had cleared it was voted  9-7 with one abstention ( Kyrgyzstan ) that the application should not be considered. Countries voting  not to consider the ILGA’s application ( i.e. ‘yes’)  were:  Russia, Senegal, Sudan, Venezuela, Burundi, China, Nicaragua, Pakistan and Morocco .

Countries voted against the application being  ignored ( i.e. ‘no’) were:  Peru, Turkey, USA, Belgium, Bulgaria, India and Israel.

Read much more on Inner City Press here.

The approved resolution put forward initially on December 17, 2010 was as follows:

A) on the basis that ILGA represents over 700 LGBTI member organisations throughout the world equally committed to fight discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, and to promote the universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the elimination of all forms of discrimination and also including the realisation of the specific provisions of the following international human rights instruments:
· The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;
· The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights;
· The International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination;
· The Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women;
· The Convention on the Rights of the Child
· The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
· United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,

B) concerned that ILGA’s applications for ECOSOC status have been unjustly denied 4 times,

C) disturbed by the discriminatory treatment from the UN NGO Committee demanding once again (November 2010) ILGA to subject our membership to additional, unreasonable and unjust requirements outside of the protocol concerning ECOSOC applications,

1) condemns the repeated attempts to link ILGA and LGBTI organisations with paedophilia

2) insists that the United Nations recognizes ILGA’s right to obtain ECOSOC status in order to engage with the United Nations system like any other legitimate organisation.

Original located on ILGA’s site here.

At least you know which countries to add to your no-visit list.

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