International Day Against Homophobia & Transphobia 2014: Freedom of Expression

Published: October 15, 2013

After months of outreach and consultation with LGBTI rights activists and allies around the world, as to what to focus on for the 10th Anniversary edition of the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, 2014, we found that the most popular campaign call, in diverse country-settings, was Freedom of Expression.

Activists in countries including Turkey, Russia and Armenia highlighted a need to challenge anti-’propaganda’, ‘obscenity’ and ‘public morality’ laws which, in practice, are being used to close down spaces for public assembly, shut down LGBTI community websites, justify police actions targeting vulnerable communities, and to silence journalists and human rights defenders who speak out in favour of LGBTI rights.
In countries including Brazil and the United States, activists highlighted the use of right-wing religious arguments to curb diversity eduction and anti-bullying campaigns in schools, with the excuse of prohibiting the ‘promotion of homosexuality‘, providing ‘age-appropriate’ material, or ‘respecting the curriculum‘.
In countries such as Uganda and Kenya, LGBTI activists have highlighted the use of arguments that ‘homosexuality is not in our culture‘ to repress public expressions of LGBTI rights, in already very hostile contexts. Meanwhile, in the Philippines and Thailand, LGBTI rights advocates pointed to the absence of specific legal provisions targeting hate crimes and hate speech which, they argued, reflects the power of opponents of LGBTI rights to set the terms of debate.
Various activists, from all over the world, also highlighted freedom of expression as an effective way to promote trans* and gender non-conforming people’s rights to self-determine their gender identities and expressions, push for more accurate and positive representations of trans* people in the media, and to appeal for much-needed improvements in the scope, quality and human rights credentials of gender-identity recognition laws worldwide.
We have also received positive feedback from artists, performers, writers and educators who have highlighted the use of these laws not just to restrict LGBTI community voices, but to limit freedom of expression for all.
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