Regional action needed on homophobia

Published: January 5, 2012

Australian gay rights activists have called on the Gillard Government to take a stronger stand on LGBTI rights in the region following the release of a United Nations report into high levels of violence faced by LGBTI people worldwide.

The report was released in Geneva last week after a UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) resolution passed in June called for an end to discrimination against people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA) Australia, New Zealand and Pacific Islands representative Simon Margan warmly welcomed the report, but urged Australia to take notice of regional problems.

“We need to continue to place pressure on some of our Pacific Island neighbours to start recognising LGBTI rights,” Margan told the Star Observer.

“We have a large number of neighbouring countries which still have sanctions against homosexuality, so we could certainly take some action on our own doorstep.

The Cook Islands, Kiribati, Papua New Guinea, Western Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tonga and Tuvalu all retain colonial-era anti-sodomy laws.

After a regional push this year (as part of the UNHRC’s Universal Periodic Review) to reverse such laws, only Palau and Nauru agreed.

Margan said outside the Asia Pacific region, he hopes the UN’s report will have an impact on the lives of LGBT people.

“It’s very significant as it’s the first time the United Nations has taken a proactive stance on this,” he said.

“I think we will see ramifications in the countries which haven’t seen their human rights abuses as human rights abuses before.”

The overall report found a pattern of human rights violations against LGBT people, including the use of murder, beatings, rape, and discriminatory treatment by authorities.

The report also found violence against LGBT people was “especially vicious” compared with other prejudice-motivated crimes, often displaying a high degree of cruelty and brutality.

UN Human Rights Office LGBT adviser Charles Radcliffe said the report highlights that the push for LGBT rights should not be prevented because of religious or cultural beliefs.

“What we are talking about here is universal human rights, making sure that everyone is entitled to the same rights,” Radcliffe told United Nations radio.

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