Today marks the seventh International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia, or IDAHO. Since 2005, IDAHO has been observed on 17th May to commemorate the date of the World Health Organisation’s decision to remove homosexuality from its list of recognised psychiatric disorders.
For some commentators, IDAHO 2011 was an opportunity to celebrate the progress on gay and trans rights across the globe. Demonstrating the changing cultural landscape for LGBT people in the West, Lady Gaga took over editorial control of the international newspaper group Metro for IDAHO, illustrating too the potential power of celebrity endorsements of LGBT rights. In one Metro article published under Gaga’s careful supervision, Cary Alan Johnson, executive director of the International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission, noted the “huge progress” already made towards greater LGBT equality world-wide.
For other writers, however, IDAHO 2011 was used primarily to draw attention to the continuing human rights violations suffered by LGBT people. Human Rights Watch used the day to issue a preliminary shortlist for its 2011 Homophobia Hall of Shame. It has nominated David Bahati, the author of the draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill debated in recent months before the Ugandan parliament. It has also proposed Scott Lively as a contender. Lively is a US pastor, who continues to petition governments around the globe, including Uganda, to deny basic human rights to LGBT people.
Peter Tatchell had related concerns; writing in the Guardian he marked IDAHO by complaining that the Commonwealth remains a ‘bastion of homophobia’, singling out the Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma for particular criticism for failing to affirm the Commonwealth’s commitment to LGBT equality. However, Tatchell goes on to claim that the real culprit is the ‘poisonous legacy of British colonialism’, under which homosexuality was criminalised for the first time in many of these countries.
Oddly, few media outlets used IDAHO to celebrate the work of the activists working tirelessly to address homophobia and transphobia across the globe, often at considerable personal risk. My vote in this regard would be Nikolay Alexeyev, who continues to battle to improve the contemptible record of Russia on LGBT rights. In October 2011, Nikolay brought the first ever successful challenge against Russia under the European Convention, for violations relating to the ban on Gay Pride marches by the Moscow city authorities. IDAHO could not pass without also observing the death of the Ugandan LGBT activist David Kato, who was murdered earlier this year.
IDAHO 2011 was a day to reflect on LGBT equality, whether this meant celebrating the progress that has already been made, publicising abuses or applauding the work of activists.
What were your reflections this IDAHO? Why not make your own private IDAHO public by adding them as a comment below?