No More Controversy: Same Sex Rights Are Human Rights

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"Despite notable progress on LGBT rights in countries like New Zealand, Argentina, Uruguay, France, the United Kingdon, and the United States, LGBT individuals in most of the world still face tremendous barriers to fulfilling their human rights."

At the end of a year that has witnessed some real victories around the world for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights, we at Pathfinder were shocked to hear the news from Uganda today.

Ugandan lawmakers passed a bill containing a host of hateful provisions, including life imprisonment for, among others, HIV-positive men who engage in sex with other men, even if consensually. Same-sex relations were already illegal in Uganda, but the bill serves to makes punishments even harsher and to further curtail LGBT rights.

This disturbing development comes close on the heels of a similarly intolerant move by Indian lawmakers. Last week, India became the 77th country to criminalize consensual same-sex relations when its Supreme Court announced the restoration of a discriminatory colonial-era law.

The ruling is a staggering blow to human rights—not just in India, but everywhere.

Despite notable progress on LGBT rights in countries like New Zealand, Argentina, Uruguay, France, the United Kingdom, and the United States, LGBT individuals in most of the world still face tremendous barriers to fulfilling their human rights.

They face public humiliation on a daily basis. They are ostracized by their communities, stigmatized at school, and discriminated against when seeking health services. And, in those 77 countries whose ranks India has joined, they are treated as criminals, and can face imprisonment, torture, and even death sentences.

When we talk about sexual rights, these are the people who are far too often left out of the conversation.

At Pathfinder, we are dedicated to inclusive programs that take into account the needs and interests of vulnerable, stigmatized populations like the LGBT community. We are proud of the rights-based approach that we have successfully implemented with our local LGBT partners in Brazil, Kenya, Mozambique, and India.

Nowhere is this dedication stronger than in our Mukta project. Mukta, which means “freedom” in Marathi, is an initiative aimed at protecting and empowering sex workers and LGBT communities in the Maharashtra state of India. This includes working with male sex workers who have sex with men, a population particularly vulnerable to contracting HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.

Part of what makes Mukta special is that it is powered by dynamic peer educators. The project builds their skills—to listen attentively to other sex workers, identifying personal or social factors that leave them and their clients vulnerable to infection. Mukta builds social cohesion, supports social capital, boosts individual self-esteem, empowers communities, and nurtures leadership.

In total, Mukta has reached over 7,000 men who have sex with men, providing them with information, knowledge, resources, and—perhaps most importantly—skilled peer educators and a stronger, organized community to lean on.

More than ever, the Indian LGBT community—and the LGBT communities of the 76 other countries—need rights-based interventions like Mukta and the meaningful solidarity of allies like Pathfinder.

Same-sex rights as human rights shouldn’t be a controversial topic. But recent events in Uganda and India are stark reminders that we need to redouble our efforts in support of human rights for everyone, everywhere.

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Thank you for bringing this important issue to the attention of so many people. The utter disregard with which people in power treat other human beings because of their sexual orientation is shocking. So Ugandan lawmakers passed a bill punishing HIV-positive men who engage in sex with other men with life in prison. I guess that will really reduce the rate if HIV in Uganda's prisons. No more gay sex for that guy, he is going to be in prison for the rest of his life . Really, whose Idea was that? Regulating sexual behavior is, well risky business. Your blog is changing the world one reader at a time.
Carlos Danger January 16, 2014
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