Saturday 10 December 2016 marks Human Rights Day – observed every year to commemorate the day on which, in 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a milestone document affirming the basic rights and freedoms of all human beings.
On that day, the international community made a commitment to all of us – to protect the rights that we are entitled to, regardless of our nationality, gender, ethnicity, religion, language, or any other status.
Human Rights Day provides the opportunity to reflect on the progress we have made, and what we have yet to achieve. While we have seen huge strides towards equality in the UK and some parts of the world in recent years, we still have a long journey ahead of us.
72 countries still criminalise same-sex relationships and in 10 countries, same-sex activity is punishable by death.
Only 50 countries allow trans people the legal right to change their name and gender. In many more countries, LGBT people face discrimination, violence and a whole host of other human rights violations, just for being themselves.
Nearly 70 years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted, it is clear that we have our work cut out for us if we want to ensure human rights are enjoyed equally by all.
This year, Human Rights Day calls on everyone to stand up for someone’s rights.
At Stonewall, we are standing up for LGBT rights here at home and for LGBT people in other countries.
We are working with activists and groups worldwide to share ideas and resources and provide support in their campaigns for equality.
Just this week, we hosted activists from South East Europe here in London, for a programme which brings together LGBT human rights defenders with police, officials from government and the justice system, and hate crime specialists from civil society, to share experiences and learn how we can better improve access to justice for LGBT people in the UK and in South East Europe. In all of the activists’ countries, LGBT rights are under attack.
As one of the delegates, Amarildo Fecanji, Executive Director at the LGBTI Equal Rights Association for Western Balkans and Turkey, declared:
We are perceived as a threat… we are often afraid, our rights will go first.
Speaking at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s Human Rights Day event yesterday, Amarildo reminded us: ‘Do not negotiate on human rights, make sure you protect them properly.’
By working with LGBT groups across the globe, we realise that we share many of the challenges we encounter, but at the same time, many other challenges are unique to some countries. We have as much to learn as we have to share, which is important to remember as we work together to take a stand for LGBT rights.
We also work with our government and over 100 global employers to stand up for the rights of LGBT people worldwide.
Many of us are fearful about the way the world seems to be heading. Human rights violations continue in all corners of the globe. We are witnessing a rise in hate crimes, a trend which sees LGBT people particularly vulnerable. Now, more than ever, we must all play a part in ensuring acceptance without exception.
Whether it’s in the street or on social media, in our workplace or on public transport, we can take a stand. So please, join us by taking this opportunity on Human Rights Day to step forward and stand up for someone’s rights.
Together, we can make a difference.