LGBT Progress Overshadowed by Abuses

United Nations general assembly hall

United Nations general assembly hall

NEW YORK - The second report ever released by the United Nations on protecting LGBT rights was published today by the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). The report outlines steps for governments to take in stopping LGBT discrimination.

There are 80 countries in the world today that criminalize consensual same-sex relations. The punishments vary, including prison sentences, torture, and the death penalty.

The report represents the gradual progress being made by governments in protecting LGBT people around the world. Since the first report released in 2011, 14 countries have adopted or strengthened laws that protect LGBT rights. These changes often extended protection of sexual orientation, gender identity and introduced legal protections for intersex persons.

But it is clear that the progress is overshadowed by abuse. The report states that “since 2011, hundreds of people have been killed and thousands more injured in brutal, violent attacks” because of their LGBT identity.

This violence is in part fueled by anti-LGBT rhetoric issued by regional, national, and international leaders.

In May the president of Gambia, Yahya Jammeh at a rally said that he would “slit the throats of gay men” in the West African nation. In 2014, the president of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni, said that gay people were “disgusting” after being asked if he personally disliked homosexuals in a BBC interview.

Even in 2012, the Nobel peace prize winner and president of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, defended the current law that criminalizes homosexual acts by saying, “We like ourselves just the way we are.”

Although these leaders have not changed their opinion on supporting legislation that criminalizes LGBT persons, the UN report published today is meant to outline international obligations that leaders like these have in protecting their LGBT citizens.

The report outlined five standards and obligations that every state has in protecting the human rights of LGBT persons.

The report calls on countries to protect LGBT individuals from violence, torture and ill-treatment. This includes condemning “conversion” therapy for LGBT persons, forced and otherwise involuntary sterilization and treatment performed on intersex children.

The report also demands states to “decriminalize homosexuality and to repeal other laws used to punish individuals on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.”

States also have the “obligation to address discrimination against children and young persons who identify or are perceived as LGBT or intersex.” This means that states are obligated to protect children in schools from harassment, bullying, and in addition to protecting all LGBT people from lack of access to health information and services.

The report also outlined the obligation that countries have to “protect the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly and to take part in the conduct of public affairs.” This means that states must protect the rights of LGBT persons and LGBT allies to assemble and advocate for their rights.

In much of the world these standards and obligations are not followed and support for LGBT rights is often cited as a western construct meant to destroy autonomy and “traditional cultural values” that exist in sovereign nations.

However the United Nations has made it clear once again that this view is not acceptable.

The report states that “All human beings, irrespective of their sexual orientation and gender identity, are entitled to enjoy the protection of international human rights law.”

Contributing Editor: @AustinBryan
LinkedIn: Austin Drake Bryan

Take Me As I Am

Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 23:57 PM EDT, 20 January 2010

Mary J. Blige
Mary J. Blige

When I first saw the video by Mary J. Blige titled, “Take Me As I Am,” I was recovering from a life long addiction to personal and work relationships in which I allowed myself and my talents to be undervalued and unappreciated. It is said that with age comes wisdom, and in my case this is true, though I know a lot of old fools. Now, as a mature woman, I recognize my power and worth and because of this I have regained my self-respect.

Though the "The Breakthrough" album was released nearly five years ago, the track "Take Me As I Am" is a song that captures the anguish of abuse that is a consequence of disrespect.  This post was inspired by this song which I play often because it speaks to me, and by the quote “if you want to be respected by others the great thing is to respect yourself. Only by that, only by self-respect will you compel others to respect you.” ~ Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Every woman or man alive has at one time been in a place where they have compromised their internal truth for some external gain. Sometimes this occurs during great hardship and tragedy where one’s very survival depends upon setting aside morality and self-respect to preserve one’s life or the lives of loved ones.

However, in mundane circumstances the potential to compromise self-respect most often occurs within the context of intimate relationships. Human interactions serve as a mirror that affords each of us the opportunity to either honestly regard ourselves and our actions, or to peer into its dark depths like Narcissus, and fall in love with false personae that we are all capable of projecting.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NzNiE3ZUHdk]

Each of us is susceptible to Narcissus' fate, for though we do not literally drown in an attempt to unite with our reflections, each of us can conjure at will an unrealistic image of our perfect mate. When we engage in a relationship with a person that most closely approximates this vision we will often do anything to keep them.

It is true that an equal number of people have disrespected themselves for inanimate objects such as drugs, money, or material possessions, but it is easy to disguise our lack of self-respect in pursuit of these items because our debasement often occurs in privacy of our minds. It is more difficult to disguise a lack of self-respect within the context of interpersonal relationships.

Intimate relationships most often provide the fertile soil in which self-abasement can take root. In the beginning, the inequity between partners is easily sublimated by the heady euphoria of lust and unfamiliarity. Then, as the adage goes, “familiarity breeds contempt” and because of this, many men and women have suffered the indignities attributed to loving someone who does not reciprocate the feeling.

A healthy sense of self-worth can strengthen a person's resolve to wait for the right situation, the right partner, at the right time. One of the greatest values of self-respect is empowerment. When we rely on external validation, whether through the fawning public and media, as in the case of famous people, or through significant relationships, as in the case of every human being, life becomes a series of rapturous highs and devastating lows. Essentially, we transfer control of our self-worth into the hands of an unworthy judge. Reclaiming one's power and control is the message conveyed by this song which is an anthem for anyone struggling to rediscover their worth.

Self-respect is a tool by which human beings can realize their highest potential and greatest good.  It is only after one has learn to value oneself that you can value another person, even one who has rejected you.  Self-respect frees an individual to honestly assess personal interactions to determine if someone is a good fit for an intimate relationship or even friendship.  Concomitantly this realization should not imply that the individual is defective, because self-respect requires us to recognize the rights and feelings of people who may not fit within our world view.  Thus, we become free to be ourselves and to allow others to do likewise if we honestly and openly proclaim to the world "this is who I am."

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