The International Day Against Homophobia, IDAHO, was founded by Louis Georges Tin on 17th May in 2005 and continues to be held on this date each year. 17th May was specifically chosen to commemorate IDAHO as it was on this day in 1990 when the World Health Organisation removed homosexuality from its list of mental illness.
This fact surprises most people as only 22 years ago, in our lifetime, those who have same-sex relationships were considered mentally unwell, were hospitalised and treated accordingly. This “treatment” was incredibly invasive, such as psychotropic medication, pre-frontal lobotomies and aversion therapy to name but a few. Incredibly, recent research shows that therapists still trying to cure us (Bartlett, Smith and King, 2009). Treatments to change a person’s sexuality are unethical and may be damaging as homosexuality is not a disorder nor is there any evidence that any such “treatments” are effective.
Homophobia is the most prevalent form of bullying in schools today and homophobic language has far exceeded racism in society as form of disrespect and abuse, often leading to violent physical assault. Kate Allen, Director of Amnesty International UK cites, “two thirds of lesbian and gay school children [in Britain] have experienced homophobic bullying; an astonishing 17% of which were death threats” (2008). Homophobia is equivalent to racism, sexism, ageism, sizeism and prejudice against disability yet this is often disregarded in favour of conflicting personal values. Unfortunately, the effects of homophobia are demoralising, dehumanising and distressing. Homophobia can create mental ill health where once there was none and it significantly increases the risk of self-harm and suicide amongst those who experience it.
Justin Fashanu, 19 February 1961 – 2 May 1998.
Homophobia is a hate crime and is subject to British Law that vetoes such actions and also prohibits incitement to hate crime on the grounds of sexual orientation under the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act (2008). The Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003 prohibit discrimination and harassment in the workplace, The Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) 2007 prohibit discrimination in the provision of goods and services, and The Civil Partnership Act 2005 allows same-sex couples to enjoy the same rights and responsibilities as married couples.
Nevertheless, lesbians and gay men still experience extensive discrimination.
IDAHO is needed because 86 member states of the United Nations still criminalise consensual sex among same-sex adults. Six provinces punish homosexuality with imprisonment. Seven have the death penalty as punishment.
Mahmoud Asgari, 16 years old, and Ayaz Marhoni, 18 years old, executed 19th July 2005.
“Corrective rape” is used to “teach” women who have sex with women the “right” way to have relationships. Often these women are gang raped and too often they are then killed when the “correction” gets out of hand.
Eudy Simelane, 1977 – 28 April 2008.
IDAHO is therefore a day to remember those who have lost lives because of their sexual orientation or gender identity and for those who continue to suffer persecution. However, IDAHO can also be used to celebrate the worldwide campaigns that oppose this discrimination and fight for equality of life and opportunity for all.
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May 15, 2012