Thursday, March 11, 2010

Lesbians, Bisexual and Trans Women not included

The rights of lesbian, bisexual women and transgender people (LBT) were not included in the Beijing Platform for Action, despite strong efforts of organizations present at Beijing. Theoretically, the rights of all minorities - handicapped women, widows, LBT etc were part of the 12 critical areas of concern, just not specifically named. This 15 year review showed that many of the actions in the Platform for Action have been watered down, many promises not kept.

The idea that programs to stop violence against women would include violence against lesbian women proved to be false, and lesbian women are under attack in many countries, our rights ignored or denied. In more than 70 countries being lesbian, bisexual or trans is considered a crime, in at least five countries the penalty is death.

The idea of education for all girls in many countries does not include lesbian girls. In schools in Uganda we learned, in a forum on homophobia in the education system organized by ILGA – the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, that lesbians are expelled from school if it becomes known that they are lesbians. Research needs to be done worldwide on the incidence of illiteracy among lesbians. Research in Canada shows that masculine girls face more violence, and from peers, than do feminine boys, and that children of lesbian parents hear every day that there is something wrong with their family. The education system is not engaged sufficiently in stopping homophobia. Chairing the forum, Rebeca Sevilla of Education International reminded us that trade unions have excellent resources on combatting homophobia in schools.

By making lesbians, bisexuals and trans people invisible in the Platform for Action, for 15 years States have done too little to counter homophobia and its terrible effects worldwide.

A positive development however was the side event organized by the Dutch government, in conjunction with the Belgian and Portuguese governments that explored best practices in supporting LBT people. This is the first time that Member States have organized an event on LBT at the CSW. One of the speakers acknowledged that equality means equality for all of us, including sexual minorities. Twenty years ago or more, courageous women formulated the credo "Women's Rights are Human Rights". Its time to embellish that statement with "and that includes all women".

My goal is for the LBT agenda to be an emerging issue at a CSW within 5 years.
Who will join me in the effort to get LBT rights on the CSW agenda?

Lin McDevitt-Pugh
Interim Executive Director, ILGA

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