Zero Discrimination Day is an opportunity to join together against discrimination and celebrate everyone’s right to live a full and productive life with dignity. Source: UNAIDS - Photo: 2024

UN Observes ‘Zero Discrimination Day’ While Anti-Gay Laws Spread Across Africa

By Lisa Vives, Global Information Network

NEW YORK | 4 March 2024 (IDN) — Forced evictions, loss of jobs, increased violence and other human rights abuses are being reported across Africa, worrying UN agencies and other watchdog groups around the world.

Since a harsh new bill was passed in Ghana, 12 UN agencies issued an unprecedented joint statement on the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender & intersex people.

“There is an urgent need to remove laws which harm people’s rights and bring in laws which uphold the rights of every person… The recent global push-back against the human rights of LGBTQ people, against sexual and reproductive health and rights, against democracy and civic space is not only a threat to everyone’s freedom, but a threat to everyone’s health,” declared the founders of Zero Discrimination Day at the United Nations.

March 1, a day of activism, was established by UNAIDS a decade ago. But, despite improvements in some societies, attacks on the rights of women and girls, of LGBTQ+ people and of other marginalized communities are increasing.

Gender equality

“Gender equality is still a long way off, but we know that progress is possible,” said the U.N. group. “Only 60 years ago, the majority of women globally could not vote or even have a bank account in their own name.”

Zero Discrimination Day was first celebrated on March 1, 2014, when it was launched by UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé with a major event in Beijing.

“Through upholding rights for all, we will be able to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and secure a safer, fairer, kinder, and happier world,” said Winnie Byanyima, formerly executive director of UNAIDS and Oxfam International.

Some 31 countries still criminalize consensual same-sex sexual activity, despite the clear contradiction with established African Union and international human rights standards.

In Uganda, for instance, the situation has worsened with the passage of the draconian Anti-Homosexuality Act in 2023.  One of the harshest of its kind in Africa, the bill still has to be validated by the president before entering into law.

However, the legislation is widely supported in Ghana, where Akufo-Addo has said gay marriage will never be allowed while he is in power.

Anti-gay bill

Commonly referred to as the anti-gay bill, it was sponsored by a coalition comprising Christian, Muslim, and Ghanaian traditional leaders.

A human rights coalition known as the Big 18, an umbrella group of lawyers and activists in Ghana, has condemned the bill which imposes a prison sentence of three to five years for the “willful promotion, sponsorship, or support of LGBTQ+ activities”.

“You can’t criminalize a person’s identity and that’s what the bill is doing, and it’s absolutely wrong,” said Takyiwaa Manuh, a member of the coalition.

But opposition lawmaker Sam George, the main sponsor of the bill, urged Akufo-Addo to approve it.

“There is nothing that deals with LGBTQ better than this bill that has been passed by parliament. We expect the president to walk his talk and be a man of his word,” George said.

Amnesty International is calling on African states and governments to publicly acknowledge and protect the human rights of all people equally without discrimination. They must also repeal or refrain from efforts to criminalize consensual same-sex conduct, as such legislation cannot comply with international or regional human rights standards and basic principles of human dignity and equality. [IDN-InDepthNews]

Photo: Zero Discrimination Day is an opportunity to join together against discrimination and celebrate everyone’s right to live a full and productive life with dignity. Source: UNAIDS

IDN is the flagship agency of the Non-profit International Press Syndicate.

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