Wednesday, December 20, 2006

2006 in review - LGBT

Amidst all the wrangling (still ongoing) in the UK over goods and services legislation, it's worth pausing to recall - especially as 2007 has been designated as the Year of Equal Opportunities for All by the European Union - what kind of a vintage 2006 has been (all references here are to the informative wikipedia LGBT timeline and the pages of ILGA).

From the LGBT standpoint - and in no particular order here are a few of the significant events-

Same sex marriage laws passsed in South Africa - the only country in Africa with partnership recognition of any kind and also demonstrating that allowing same sex couples to marry doesn't cause the sky to fall in.

The Hong Kong Government accepts a Court ruling that the ages of consent should be the same for gay and straight.

ILGA-Europe and 2 other NGO's get ECOSOC consultative status at the UN after a long struggle and 54 member states supported a statement on LGBT human rights issues by Norway - also supported by very many NGO's.

On the smaller side of things the Faroe Islands vote (narrowly) in favour of a discrimination law covering sexual orientation, and the age of consent is equalised in Jersey and Isle of Man.

The Czech Republic and Slovenia adopt a partnership law, meanwhile Uruguay, Italy and Ireland are in the process of considering some kind of partnership recognition.

At the same time the Canadian Parliament voted against reopening the issue of same sex marriage, with the Conservative Party now accepting that the issue is closed.

The Scottish Parliament votes by a large majority in favour of allowing same sex coupels to adopt.

Discrimination laws were passed in Washington and Illinois and the New Jersey legislature voted to enact a form of Civil Union in response to a unanimous ruling from the State Supreme Court.

A lot of the stories are about marriage, civil unions and partnership recognition. There is a clear trend here. Whereas opponents have been saying that this will be the end of civilisation as we know it, they have been proved wrong.

The trend is of timid legislatures (at least initially), but when obliged to act as in New Jersey, South Africa or Canada they tend to gain in conviction and the ability to be able to do the right thing.

In spite of all this progress the downside of the year is that human rights abuses still continue.

Nigeria - supported by the Anglican Church there is still in the process of debating a law which entails a 5 year prison sentence for belonging to a gay organisation, being a witness to a same sex marriage or for any positive portrayal of homosexuality.

Moscow, Latvia, Jerusalem - Pride events still encountering different forms of resistence including violence, opposition from politicians and religious groups.

Cameroon - people continue to face detention without being charged with an offence linked to homosexuality.

All of the above have in common that they are basic human rights abuses - right to a fair trial, right to freedomn of assembly and freedom of expression.

This emphasises why we need to have much more international solidarity in the coming years if we are to ensure that the kind of progress we see in some countries becomes available all over the world - and never let our guard down.

For more information see pages on the ILGA (International Lesbian and Gay Association) website.

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