Say NO to Homophobia and Transphobia – International Anti Homophobia Day

Buhle Mabaso

With an increased number of sexual minorities facing prosecution and intimidation, Saturday May 17th is the annual International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO). This day has been set aside to raise awareness of violence, discrimination, and repression of LGBTI communities worldwide.

It therefore provides an opportunity to take action and engage in dialogue with the policymakers, public opinion, and wider civil society on issues pertaining to the LGBTI community.

International Day Against Homophobia belongs to no one individual, country or continent. It is about all people hoping for a prejudice-free world that can provide a place at the table for everyone regardless of their sexual orientation.

The plight of LGBTI communities across Africa has drawn the attention of African leaders. Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu of South Africa and Former Mozambique President Joaquim Chissano are some of the leaders who have called for Africa to respect and stop introducing harsher penalties for sexual minorities. Former Mozambican President, Joachim Chissano said: ‘I encourage leaders to take a strong stand for fundamental human rights, and advance the trajectory for basic freedoms”. Archbishop Tutu has been equally vocal about the respect and protection of the rights of LGBTI persons; highlighting that “opposing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is a matter of justice”.

Homosexuality remains illegal in more than 80 countries, in some cases punishable by life imprisonment. In seven countries, same-gender sex is punishable by death. This year, efforts across the world include plans to draw attention to the criminalizing same sex couples. IDAHO offers an opportunity to draw attention to the issue of homophobia and transphobia worldwide.

In countries like South Africa major breakthroughs have occurred, and homosexuals are stepping out of the shadows. However, the reality is quite different for many others in the continent. Many individuals are unable to live their sexual orientation, encounter difficulties if they do, or end up role-playing to protect themselves.

I believe in the equal enjoyment of human rights and urge individuals, families, communities and leaders to speak out against discrimination. The right to fight homophobia, and all different kinds of discrimination for that matter, is in itself a human right. In other words, we are saying, everybody has the right to make sure that their and other people’s rights, including those of gays and lesbians, are respected.