On the occasion of the International Day against Transphobia and Homophobia (17 May), the Red Cross Red Crescent reminds stakeholders all over the world that the value of equality must prevail to combat all discrimination based on sexual orientation.
By Bekele Geleta, Secretary General of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies
The realization of equality based on sexual orientation and gender identity remains a significant challenge, considering the obstacles faced by the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community.
A lot remains to be done to promote a culture of respect, inclusiveness and diversity encompassing all LGBT people.
Here is the stark reality we can depict today: In some areas of the world, LGBT people are still living in the shadows of our societies, shunned by their families and communities with little or no access to the public services they are entitled to. They are often victims of hate crimes, prejudice, forced outing and violence. If their voices are heard at all, it is in the context of sensationalist media coverage, which is rarely translated into effective protection.
If the world fails to protect and empower the LGBT community, and if we fail to observe the gender perspective, then prejudice, stigma and violence will prevail.
The IFRC has played an active role in bringing the voices and concerns of sexual minorities to the world’s attention, as we believe that everyone has a right to a life of peace, tolerance, good health and dignity.
The HIV epidemic has had a disproportionately high impact on sexual and gender minorities, with UNAIDS data showing that men who have sex with men, and transgender communities, are especially hard hit. The global response to this epidemic requires full respect of human rights. True equality means equal rights and an end to discrimination against people with different sexual orientations and gender identities.
We all have a moral obligation to promote cultural change towards equality and inclusiveness.
The International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia gives us all an opportunity to speak out for equality – to ask that we all work together to encourage non-discriminatory behaviour at all levels, to ensure full access to health services including HIV prevention and treatment, and to advocate for hate crime legislation covering LGBT-phobic offences.