In over 70 countries around the world, LGBT people are criminalized. Those governments’ insistence that we are criminals leads to violence, torture and murder. Some countries may have seen significant advancements in LGBT equality, but is it true equality when the rest of our community is criminalized? We must do better for our community, and we must actively work to remove all laws that criminalize LGBT people. Hornet is launching the Decriminalize LGBT campaign in an effort to raise awareness about these laws and to support ongoing decriminalization efforts.
Our community must call for an end to the criminalization of LGBT people around the world, because LGBT rights are human rights. If we work together to prioritize this issue we can impact the lives of LGBT people in all parts of the globe.
This campaign is but the first step in ongoing efforts to ensure that the rights of LGBT people are protected and the laws that criminalize us are done away with.
Just look at this map of criminalization created by ILGA, the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association. These laws impact millions of our community members. Many governments still treat us like criminals even if there’s no anti-LGBT law on the books.
To many in our community, criminalization is nothing new. Governments criminalize people for being undocumented, for being HIV-positive or for sex work. But we are not criminals.
Our ability to control or bodies, express our gender and pursue our sexuality is fundamental to our humanity. To be robbed of that strips us of who we are, and such laws force many to live in the margins, leaving them vulnerable to violence and extortion.
We’ve seen anti-LGBT policies expand in the past year, and government-sanctioned violence has intensified:
In Indonesia, the police have publicly beaten and humiliated LGBT people.
Egypt continues to harass and arrest gay men.
In Chechnya, gay men have been tortured, imprisoned and murdered at the hands of the government — the same government that doesn’t acknowledge the existence of gay people. This is but a sample of actions by anti-LGBT governments. The violence and harassment continues, but it’s no longer front-page news. We must change that.
Decriminalize LGBT must be brought front and center as an issue. It’s not enough to ask public officials if they support LGBT rights. We must also ask them what they are actively doing to dismantle anti-LGBT laws. It’s not enough for a government or organization to say it supports LGBT rights if it does business with countries that criminalize LGBT people.
We can also do more to highlight and support the great work our community partners are doing around the globe. ILGA Pan Africa is on the frontlines of building a unified African movement while advocating for the protection of LGBT rights. We’ve seen anti-LGBT sentiment sweep across the continent, where American Christian fundamentalists are often leading the charge. Local activists have the very difficult task of confronting hostile governments as well as contending with the influence of powerful outside forces.
The criminalization of LGBT people has a profound impact on the HIV epidemic as well. Such laws prevent people from accessing testing, treatment and prevention. We can never get an accurate picture of the epidemic and how gay men are impacted if it’s illegal for men to admit to having sex with other men. MSMGF has been a critical organization fighting for the rights of LGBT people and supporting access to treatment and prevention. A recent paper endorsed by MSMGF demonstrates how global programs can have an impact on anti-gay laws. Programs and institutions with money and power can influence policy if they decide to prioritize LGBT people.
Anti-LGBT laws are inhumane and unjust, and they prevent LGBT people from fully participating in communities and accessing lifesaving services. We can build a coalition of activists, civil society and corporations to hold governments accountable, change policies and save lives. We must invest in the lives of LGBT people and defend human rights. Decriminalize LGBT now. Click here to support the Decriminalize LGBT campaign on Facebook and Twitter.
Featured image by filipefrazao via iStock