On 16 July, human rights defender and journalist Eric Lembembe was brutally tortured and murdered in Cameroon. Cases like these are reported far too often throughout the world.
A 2011 report by the UN Human Rights Office found an alarming pattern of brutal violence and widespread discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in all regions. In 76 countries, adult same-sex relationships are criminalized, exposing lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals to the risk of arrest, imprisonment, torture, and even, in five countries, the death penalty.
While attitudes are shifting and many Governments are slowly making progress implementing reforms including anti-discrimination and hate crime laws, more work remains to be done, in all regions, to tackle hate-motivated violence and discrimination against LGBT people.
At a press event in Cape Town, South Africa, UN Human Rights Chief Navi Pillay, together with Archbishop Desmond Tutu and South African Constitutional Court Justice Edwin Cameron, launched Free & Equal, an unprecedented global public education campaign to promote greater respect for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people everywhere.
Speaking at the launch, Pillay argued that eradicating discrimination of any kind required more than just changes in laws and policies; it took a change in people’s hearts and minds as well.
“Changing attitudes is never easy,” she said. “But it has happened on other issues and it is happening already in many parts of the world on this one. It begins with often difficult conversations. With this campaign, we want to help start and inform millions of conversations among people around the world and across the ideological spectrum.”
In addition to engaging fact sheets and articles, Free & Equal will generate a stream of creative content – including short videos, infographics and testimonies –all designed to dispel common misconceptions and negative stereotypes and encourage people to look at the lives of LGBT people through the eyes of LGBT people and their families. All campaign materials will be made available on the campaign’s website, UNFE.org.
Pillay described Nelson Mandela as a great source of inspiration for the campaign and recalled his faith in education as the best weapon against prejudice. “He used to say that people are not born hating one another; they learn to hate,” Pillay said. “And that if people can learn to hate, they can be taught to love—that love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
The Free & Equal campaign was conceived and developed by the UN Human Rights Office and is implemented in partnership with the Purpose Foundation—a non-profit organization that develops global social-media driven campaigns on human rights issues.
Several global celebrities have already pledged their support for the campaign including musician Ricky Martin, South African singer Yvonne Chaka Chaka, Bollywood actress Celina Jaitly, Brazilian novelist Paulo Coelho, and Brazilian singer Daniela Mercury.
You can learn more about Free & Equal and sign up to receive campaign materials and updates by visiting the campaign website at UNFE.org, or follow the campaign at facebook.com/free.equal or via Twitter @free_equal.