Advocacy statements

The right to free expression, association and assembly of LGBTI+ Rights Activists

  • Date / 2021
  • Location / Ghana
  • Relevant Institution / UN Human Rights Council
  • UN Item / Item 8: Follow-up and implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action


International Humanist and Ethical Union

46th Session of the UN Human Rights Council (22 February – 19 March 2021)

General Debate Item 8

Thank you Madame President,

The Vienna Declaration emphasizes the responsibilities of all States to respect human rights for all, without distinction.[1]

Yet, nearly 28 years later 42 countries have legal barriers to freedom of association and expression around sexual and gender diversity issues.[2]

These barriers take a variety of forms, including censorship, language around propaganda, prosecution of LGBTI symbols, and the criminalisation of offences against morality and religion.[3]

For instance, in Turkey, four students were arrested in January over a piece of artwork that reportedly combined LGBTI symbols with an image of an Islamic site. The Interior Minister described them as perverts.[4]

In Tunisia, security forces reportedly target LGBTI activists at protests with arbitrary arrests, physical and verbal assaults, and refusing legal counsel.[5] And, this month, a prominent LGBTI rights activist was sentenced to six months in prison for shouting outside a police station after officers refused to register her harassment complaint.[6]

In Ghana, lawmakers[7] are currently looking to pass a bill criminalizing all forms of advocacy on LGBTI issues. LGBT Rights Ghana, a non-profit human rights organization operating a community center in Accra was forced to close its doors after conservative and religious opponents claimed it ran counter to “family values.”[8]

The right to free expression and to association belongs to all, without distinction. We call on the aforementioned countries to recognise this and to cease their persecution of LGBTI activists.

I make this statement in memory of David Polfliet, who was murdered in a homophobic hate crime in Belgium earlier this month.

Thank you.



[1] https://www.ohchr.org/en/professionalinterest/pages/vienna.aspx
[2] https://ilga.org/downloads/ILGA_World_State_Sponsored_Homophobia_report_global_legislation_overview_update_December_2020.pdf
[3] https://ilga.org/downloads/ILGA_World_State_Sponsored_Homophobia_report_global_legislation_overview_update_December_2020.pdf
[4] https://www.hrw.org/topic/lgbt-rights, The BBC translated the word “sapkini,” as “deviant“ https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-55872759
[5] https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/02/23/tunisia-police-arrest-use-violence-against-lgbti-activists
[6] https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/03/09/tunisia-harassment-arbitrary-detention-lgbt-rights-activist
[7] https://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/Ghana-should-consider-legislation-against-LGBT-advocacy-Oppong-Nkrumah-1183735, https://www.myjoyonline.com/lgbtqi-is-criminal-non-negotiable-per-our-laws-adwoa-safo/
[8] https://www.them.us/story/ghanaian-lgbtq-center-raided-after-journalist-comes-out-national-tv


Suggested academic reference

'The right to free expression, association and assembly of LGBTI+ Rights Activists', Humanists International

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