Saturday, 10 December 2011

Human Rights Day 2011: Gay Rights are Human Rights too

All human beings are born free

Today, the 10th of December marks the International Human Rights Day [1] and it is the 63rd year since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) [2] was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris in 1948.

There are 30 articles in the UDHR divided into 4 columns as described in the second reference but the one of most particular import is Article 1.

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Our humanity should come before all else

I believe this article embodies the purpose, reason and sense of our humanity regardless of culture, tradition, religion, creed, race or law – it presents an non-religious concept that draws on our empathy, our compassion, our quest for fairness and justice for ourselves and fellow human-beings.

On the 6th of December 2011, the US Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton delivered a speech at the United Nations Human Rights Programmes Headquarters in Geneva in commemoration of Human Rights Day 2011 in which she addressed the next human rights issue that the world faces today.

It pertains to the rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transsexual (LGBT) persons all around the world and in it she made five fundamental points in support of the human rights issues with regards to LGBT persons. It is essential to keep the core tenet of Article 1 in mind as you review the themes of her historic speech.

The core points about LGBT rights

Gay rights are human rights; it goes to the heart of being born free and equal in dignity and rights.

Being gay is not a Western invention, it is a human reality; there are gays everywhere in the world including in places where certain leaders and people pretend there isn’t.

Violence to other human-beings is not cultural or religious; it is criminal, it is the duty of our governments to protect first and prosecute the criminals, not the victims.

Laws that discriminate validate other kinds of discrimination; it tends to divide our humanity and gives rise to other inequalities in our societies.

Progress comes from being willing to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes; what if by some circumstance probably unimaginable to some, you found you were in that minority that is being discriminated against, where you had no rights because of who you were?

There is much I can do try and flesh out each theme that she covered but the case she made was clear; it is first about our humanity than anything that distinguishes us; the matter is global; we cannot criminalise people for who are naturally are regardless of your views of those people and if you were by happenstance of those people, what will you fight for?

The shaky ground on which we stand to condemn others

However, in concluding this piece which in some cases will probably have a deeply religious readership from some parts of the globe, I can only conclude with a comment I saw on Facebook because it goes to the core of the matter of rights, of culture, of beliefs and of our fairness to our fellow human beings.

One of the best comments against a supporter of the anti-gay bill (The Nigerian Senate passed a Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition bill recently with even more homophobic sanctions.) I've (This was on Jeremy Weate’s Facebook wall.) read today (re-quoted with permission).

"I don't need to be a homo to respect the freedom of a homo. Your biblical quotes are the same quotes handed to you by invaders as they took your relatives into slavery. You have been freed physically, but not mentally. Weren't your ancestors spiritual people before the missionaries showed up? For an African with a long history, you cling blindly to a religion that was recently handed to you. Simply put, you are a lost cause. Goodluck releasing yourself from yourself devised blindfold." Taken from Jeremy Weate's Facebook status

In all, human rights is about protecting the rights of others in order to ensure ours are protected and enshrined in law despite our differences, disagreements and disputing; the greatest goal of our human existence can only be to appreciate the best in others who we may naturally not find ourselves associating with. There are few for all sorts of reasons who have dared to reach that goal.


[1] Human Rights Day - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

[2] Universal Declaration of Human Rights - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

[3] Transcript of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's on LGBT rights