At the UN, IHEU calls out populist leaders promoting homophobia and hate

  • post Type / Advocacy News
  • Date / 26 June 2018

Humanists at the United Nations have criticized the track record of many populist leaders and governments on LGBTI people and rights.

In its first statement at the 38th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, yesterday, the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) called on the international community to forcefully reject hate and discrimination against LGBTI people and call out the governments fostering such hate.

IHEU Director of Advocacy, Elizabeth O’Casey, made the call in the plenary of the Council in Geneva. In her statement, she observed the growth in ultraconservative political movements which promote hate and discrimination against sexual and gender minorities.

Citing as examples Russia’s Putin, Egypt’s al-Sisi in Egypt, Belorussian leader Lukashenko, and Tanzania’s Magufuli, O’Casey noted that LGBTI persons “remain a common target of governments fostering hatred and scapegoating so as to gain power and divert attention from their own failures.”

Tanzanian President, John Magufuli, said of LGBTI campaigners: “Those who teach such things do not like us, brothers. They brought us drugs and homosexual practices that even cows disapprove of.”

She also highlighted the role of fundamentalist religious lobbies responsible for supporting and backing these leaders and movements. The same religious lobbies are often guilty of spouting incitement to hate and discrimination from the pulpit.

O’Casey’s statement follows in full below:

International Humanist and Ethical Union

  UN Human Rights Council, 38th Session (18th June – 6th July 2018)
General Debate on Item 3

Elizabeth O’Casey

We are witnessing a continuing rise in ultraconservative political movements, led by populists and backed by fundamentalist religious groups. As the Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) notes, this often comes with political platforms being used to “promote bigotry, dehumanize persons and foster stigma and hate toward LGBTI persons.”

Whether it’s Putin in Russia, al-Sisi in Egypt, Lukashenko in Belarus, or Magufuli in Tanzania, sexual and gender minorities remain a common target of governments fostering hatred and scapegoating so as to gain power and divert attention from their own failures. LGBTI persons are portrayed as posing a danger to public health and “traditional” family structures.

Regrettably, this rhetoric has been supported by some members and observers of this council who have refused to recognise multiple forms of families and non-traditional relations.

In the majority of cases, these leaders are backed by powerful religious lobbies, including the orthodox and catholic churches in Eastern Europe, fundamentalist Mosques in the middle-East and Asia, and anti-choice evangelicals in Africa.

Too often we see suppression of free speech for those seeking to defend the equality and human rights of LGBTI people, but complete freedom for those inciting discrimination, hate and violence against them.

We call on the Council to ensure sexual orientation and gender identity is included as a protected characteristic in equality, discrimination and hate speech laws. We also urge states to tackle the root causes of anti-LGBTI prejudice, lead by example at the UN with positive speech and inclusive resolutions and call out populist and religious leaders when they are seeking to scapegoat minorities for their own consolidation of power.

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