Today, Saturday, December 10th, is Human Rights Day. On this day, the world pays tribute to human rights defenders and dedicates time to collective change and protest. The advocacy for a 100% AIDS free generation, overall sexual health, and female reproductive rights globally must be linked in the collective conscious as a Human Right in order to cause a paradigm shift in erasing hate, sexism, xenophobia, transphobia and homophobia.
Speaking in Geneva for International Human Rights Day, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reminded the audience that the original December 10, 1948 universal declaration for human rights adopted by the United Nations General Assembly clearly and simply stated that “all human beings are born free and equal with dignity and rights” and that as humans, we had rights by birth. Over the years these rights have come to include, the well-known struggle for civil rights of African Americans in the U.S., the right to housing, an adequate standard of living, right to health, the right to protection from discrimination on grounds such as physical or mental disability, gender, religion, race, national origin, age, sexual discrimination, or gender identity.
Sounds awesome, except that it is a fact that over 50 years since the Declaration was signed, there are still gaps in equality in every one of these areas. The GET DOWN campaign is very concerned about human rights, especially as it relates to stigma and the spread of HIV. In November, GET DOWN youth blogger Melani Pino-Elliott touched on the sexual rights of women globally (http://getdownpsa.blogspot.com/2011/11/dangerous-liaison-antifeminist-culture.html), and how sexual violence is used a weapon of war in many countries, and as an abuse of power here in the United States. As Pino’s blog illustrates, although there needs to be more research in order to track the number of HIV infections due to sexual violence in the U.S., in sub-saharan Africa and other parts of the world, there is a direct correlation. With respect to sexual identity, there is still much work to be done in order to erase the kind of homophobia that would cause teens and adolescents to bully their peers who they suspect of being gay so much so that the only solution the bullied youth can think of is to take their own life.
While progress is being made in the U.S. in the area of gay marriage, in other countries, not so much. Take Uganda, for example, where disclosure of sexual identity may often than not lead to death. The Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill is a legislative proposal what would outlaw homosexuality and make homosexual behavior punishable by imprisonment or death. Ironically, an ardent supporter of the so-called “Kill The Gays” Bill is American evangelist and “hate exporter” Lou Engle, now in Uganda fanning the flames of homophobia and helping maintain a climate where in Fall 2010, a Ugandan newspaper Rolling Stone (no relation to its U.S. namesake), ran the photo of LGBT activist David Kato on its cover with the headlines “Hang Them”, “We Shall Recruit 100,000 kids by 2012” and “Homos Raid Schools”. Kato was later found beaten to death. In 2010, President Obama’s criticism of the Ugandan bill was “met with a strong rebuttal from Ugandan Christian minister Martin Ssempa” according to Accuracy In Media (aim.org). The article goes onto to say that “Ssempa, a major player in the country’s successful anti-AIDS program, says that Obama has an ‘obsession with the spread of sodomy in Africa’. Ssempa and other pastors have formed a National Pastors Task Force that urges abstinence and monogamy as measures to decrease HIV infections and rally against homosexuality with archaic mistruth such as “homosexuality and bisexuality are associated with serious, yet preventable public-health risks”. Hello. This is 2011, not 1981. As widely reported by Avert and other organizations, “Sub-Saharan Africa is one region of the world where the majority of HIV transmission occurs during heterosexual contact.”
Now Nigeria is introducing a similar anti-gay bill. According to Forbes.com, the Nigerian Anti-Gay Bill will prohibit same-sex romantic liaisons and dole out 10-14 year jail sentences. President Obama has threatened to cut off foreign aid to Nigeria if the bill is passed and, according to Forbes.com, “that the fight against gay and lesbian discrimination would be a central point of U.S. foreign policy, and transgressing nations like Nigeria could be denied aid”. On Monday, Ifeanyi Orazulike and other Nigerian activists are speaking out at the UN against this bill.
Today is Human Rights Day 2011. The first step in advocating for increased sexual health and stomping out the HIV pandemic, is shifting perceptions, mindsets, and create more tolerance and then acceptance. If you do nothing else, begin the education process with yourself and then share what you’ve learned with someone else. I just did.
To Sign The Anti-Nigerian Petition: http://www.allout.org/en/actions/nigeria
For more information on:
Nigerian Anti-Gay Bill
Ugandan Gay Rights
Sexual Violence Against Women and HIV
Read. Share. Discuss. Educate.
--Kim J. Ford
GET DOWN Creator/Executive Producer