MESSAGE TO WORLD CONFERENCE OF THE INTERNATIONAL LESBIAN, GAY, BISEXUAL, TRANS AND INTERSEX ASSOCIATION (ILGA)
Stockholm, 14 December 2012
Delivered by Mr. Charles Radcliffe, Chief of Global Issues, Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights
This week, we celebrate the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which proclaimed in its first Article, “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” It bears repeating: All human beings – not some, not most, but all. No one gets to decide who is entitled to human rights, and who is not.
The past six decades have seen huge advances for many historically marginalized groups and people, including women, racial minorities and persons with disabilities. But around the world, far too many lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people continue to face discrimination, and many States have done far too little to address the problem.
In almost 80 countries, LGBT persons are still criminalized for who they are, how they look or whom they love. In many more they are subjected to bias and physical attacks. Rather than challenging prejudice, too many Governments yield to it.
I am profoundly concerned about the persistence of homophobia. Those who are LGBT and intersex are entitled to the same rights as everyone else. They too were born free and equal.
Despite the serious problems, there are grounds for hope. Recent years have seen many governments introduce measures to tackle hate crimes, sensitize State officials and provide legal recourse to victims. After decades of denial, many States recognize that discrimination against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity is a serious human rights challenge.
We have seen extraordinary shifts in social attitudes in many parts of the world. The tide is starting to turn, thanks in no small part to the efforts of all of you and your partners on the ground. Just three days ago at United Nations Headquarters in New York we held a meeting on leadership in the fight against homophobia. Yvonne Chaka Chaka, the global singing star from South Africa, told participants, “You can’t just accept equality for some but then withhold it from others because you disagree with them or you disapprove of them. Equality is equality for all or it isn’t equality at all.” I fully agree.
Your role as human rights defenders is more important than ever. The United Nations stands with you as you highlight ongoing abuses, dispel prejudice and insist on nothing short of freedom and equality for all.
I wish you productive discussions in Stockholm and every success in your critical work.