Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Nondiscrimination That Dare Not Speak Its Name - Human Rights Day 2009

Tomorrow, 12/10, is the 2009 Human Rights Day, sponsored by the United Nations.

The theme for 2009 is nondiscrimination with the tagline "embrace diversity, end discrimination."

Here's a PDF fact sheet for the day.

According to the website, "The realization of all human rights - social, economic and cultural as well as civil and political rights – is hampered by discrimination. All too often, when faced with prejudice and discrimination, political leaders, governments and ordinary citizens are silent or complacent. Yet everyone of us can make a difference. You are encouraged to celebrate Human Rights Day by advocating non-discrimination, organizing activities, raising awareness and reaching out to your local communities on 10 December and beyond."

When they list examples of discrimination, they include:
Obviously LGBT people are notably missing. We are not, however, excluded, just kind of buried. If you go to the link of Stories on Discrimination, you can find tales of homophobia, as well as discrimination against people with HIV/AIDS.

While it's encouraging that our stories are included, it's shameful that the UN has failed clearly list sexual orientation and gender identity in the list.

(The UN has made some progress on this issue in other documents: here's a link to the Wikipedia page on the UN declaration on sexual orientation and gender identity. This was an issue at the end of last year when America was the only Western nation not to support this non-binding declaration. Fortunately, after a change in the Executive branch of government, America did sign on earlier this year. This declaration and discussion was a pretty significant breakthrough for the UN, being one of their first major advances on collectively recognizing LGBT people.)

All around the world, millions of people face a daily struggle against discrimination – both directly, through laws and policies, or indirectly, through societal attitudes and prejudice. When taken to the extreme, such discrimination has even resulted in policies of ethnic cleansing and genocide (like the proposed 'kill gays' law in Uganda, being indirectly supported by some legislators here in North Carolina).

However, there've also been many successes – from the toppling of the apartheid regime in South Africa to the extension of voting rights to women in many countries – which should encourage us that inequality and discrimination can be fought against and eradicated.

On Human Rights Day 2009 (Thursday, December 10), resolve to embrace diversity and work to end discrimination.

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