Friday, May 16, 2008

International Day Against Homophobia - IDAHO

Sexuality should not be a death sentenceThe newly released International Lesbian and Gay Association’s 2008 report on state-sponsored homophobia says that to be lesbian or gay risks jail time in 86 countries and death penalty in seven. The figure normally quoted is 77 countries (find out more here).

In the UK itself, while amazing advances have been made in the Statutes Books in the last 10 years, homophobic incidence are a still all too common, especially in the schoolyard.

International Day Against Homophobia provides a platform for everyone to make a powerful statement to demand improvements for the quality of life for LGBT people both overseas and here in the UK. The 17th May -the day in 1990 when the World Health Organisation finally removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders- can be used to raise awareness of homophobic issues that are negatively impacting on people’s lives and to showcase success stories where a positive change has been achieved.

As befits a campaign in the UK, it will be marked in a wide variety of ways, with gravitas, concern, determination, wit and irony.

On the morning of Saturday May 17th campaigners in Plymouth will be assembling their floats which celebrate the 30th Anniversary of the Rainbow Flag, elder LGBT people in Belfast will be preparing to launch their new social/campaigning group , a lesbian in Leicester will begin the task of judging the winner of an IDAHO cake competition, and Trade Unionists in London will be laying wreaths for those who have been judicially slaughtered as a consequence of their sexuality.

The Communication Workers Union will be laying wreath in London to “openly protest at the appalling manner in which Iran treats LGB people”.

The Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association is hosting a meeting at Amnesty International Human Rights Centre, which will explore the rights of LGBT people at home and abroad. They will also be addressed by the Director of Changing Attitude, Nigeria. In Scotland, campaigners have designed posters under the categories of asylum, justice and human rights under the heading “Love is for everyone, everywhere” and these have been widely distributed particularly to schools “to raise the Scottish public awareness of human rights afforded to LGBT people around the world”.

The University and College Union have arranged a major conference in Manchester about “LGB Rights in Europe”. In Oxford, Amnesty International have arranged a demonstration and rally which will be addressed by several campaigners, including human rights activist, Peter Tatchell. There will be another demonstration in Medway, Kent this time about the homophobic statements of the Bishop of Register while Kent Police will hold a seminar in Maidstone as part of its campaign to raise awareness and reporting of hate crime. Brighton campaigners will again mark the day by releasing 77 lanterns into the sky, to mark the countries which criminalise homosexuality. The London Borough of Waltham Forest will unveil a plaque which has been commissioned “to remember the many victims of homophobia and transphobia from around the world and the UK who have lost their lives”

While there is naturally a focus on events abroad, no-one is complacent about LGBT Rights in the UK. The Lesbian and Gay National Archives have called a conference to reflect and remember Section 28, and an exhibition in Lewisham recalls the decriminalisation of homosexuality in “1967 and all that”. A film made by a Liverpool LGBT Youth group called “Are we there yet?” will be shown as part of a daily programme in a mainstream cinema up to and including IDAHO day. In Manchester, on the other hand, the Lesbian and Gay Foundation will be showing the film “Stonewall” to see “how far we’ve come”. There are many hate crime initiatives too. The Met will be present in Leicester Square on May 16th giving out information and advice about hate crime, and will also distribute 10,000 postcards for IDAHO day. Liverpool police will fly the rainbow flag, and at night their police station will be illuminated by a dazzling display of rainbow colours. New police advice surgeries/helplines for the LGBT communities will also be launched on IDAHO day in Bromley, Liverpool and Kent. Local authorities have arranged public awareness raising events for IDAHO, often including speeches, entertainment, a minutes noise or silence in Haringey, Hartlepool, Plymouth, Sheffield, Birmingham, Coventry, Bath, Tameside, South Shields and Northampton.

Posters designed by students at the University of Arts to mark IDAHO have been distributed all around the country in police stations, schools, job centres and youth clubs.

IDAHO takes place on May 17th and so does the UK’s Football Cup Final. Events to reflect this have been arranged in Brighton, Oldham, and Sheffield. In the FA Cup Final Programme, not only is there a commitment to tackle homophobia, but support is given for the International Day Against Homophobia-an incredible achievement.

Derek Lennard, IDAHO-UK Coordinator commented “Perhaps the time will arrive soon when gay professional footballers will feel safe enough to “come out”, and help break down one of the last bastions of homophobia in the UK”. He continued “In the meantime, and to the extent which it is appropriate, I would like to wish campaigners and supporters in the UK and abroad a happy IDAHO day for May 17th”.

Find out more about the day and the events organised across the country: or join the IDAHO UK facebook group

Picture taken at the protest against the deportation of Mehdi Kazemi back to Iran - Opposite Downing Street, Whitehall, 22 March 2008

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