Image: UN News/Elizabeth Scaffidi
New York: As the world comes together to celebrate the beginning of Pride Month on Thursday, the UN agency dedicated to ending the AIDS epidemic, UNAIDS, issued a declaration of solidarity with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTQI) communities around the globe.
Pride Month provides an opportunity to celebrate the resilience, diversity, and achievements of LGBTQI individuals, UNAIDS said in a press release, while also reflecting on continuing struggle for full equality, dignity and recognition.
This momentous occasion also serves as a reminder of the important collective commitment to human rights, equality, and the urgent need to decriminalize same-sex relationships, the agency continued.
Proud to serve
Cleiton Euzebio, Senior Advisor for Communities and Key Populations, UNAIDS said, “As a gay man, and as an activist for social justice for all, I am so proud to work for the UN’s Joint Programme to end AIDS.
“The UN is standing with communities, supporting them in leading the HIV response, confronting stigma, and building societies where every person is valued. This month and every month, may everyone feel pride in who they are.”
Thanks in large part to efforts led by key populations, the world has seen substantial progress in the HIV response, said UNAIDS, creating the real possibility that AIDS can be eradicated once and for all.
But discrimination, violence, and stigma against LGBTQI people persist in many parts of the world, limiting access to essential services, including HIV prevention, treatment, care, and support.
Barrier to justice, equality, health
The agency said that criminalization of same-sex relationships remains a significant barrier to achieving social justice and equality for LGBTQI individuals, and to ensuring health for all.
Laws that criminalize consensual same-sex activity perpetuate stigma, contribute to violence and discrimination, and obstruct access to vital healthcare services, the agency reminded, calling on all governments to urgently repeal discriminatory laws and policies, and to work towards creating an enabling legal and social environment that respects and protects the rights of LGBTQI people.
Decriminalizing same-sex relationships, is a crucial step in the collective push to ends the AIDS pandemic, said UNAIDS.
Progress is real
Significant gains have been won in advancing LGBTQI rights in many parts of the world, including the decriminalization of same-sex relationships in several countries in recent months, from Angola to Singapore to Barbados.
However other countries are imposing harsher criminal laws on same sex relationships, including only this week, Uganda, where the so-called Anti-Homosexuality Act” came into force, with some offences incurring the death penalty, and a sentence of up to 20 years in jail, merely for promoting gay rights.
The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, added his congratulations in a festive tweet, calling on the whole international community to appreciate the richness and diversity of the LGBTIQ+ community, “and honour their immense contributions to the human rights movement.”
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