Imagine being shunned by your friends, family and community for who you love? Or worse still, facing the constant threat of violence and imprisonment?
Despite multiculturalism and diversity growing in many parts of the world, many people still face discrimination because of their sexuality.
Today is International Day against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia, which aims to raise awareness of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) rights globally.
At MTV Staying Alive we work with amazing young people around the world who fight for the rights of gay people in their communities every day.
George Freeman, an MTV Staying Alive grantee and Director of Pride Quality in Sierra Leone, faces prejudice and violence because he is gay. “I live in constant fear of the police and officials who have arrested and detained me several times. My family has disowned me and kicked me out of the house, as is very common for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender, Queer, and Intersex [LGBTQI] people when their identity becomes known”.
The brutal reality of homophobia reared its ugly head a few weeks ago when two female employees of Pride Equality were threatened with violence, evicted from their home, and chased out of their town, for merely discussing the rights of LGBT people on local radio. “We started receiving death threats on our cell phones and also had verbal confrontation from unknown men threatening to kill us”, explained one of the victims.
LGBT communities often face huge barriers to their human rights in countries where homosexuality is a crime, punishable with prison sentences and in extreme cases, death. The LGBT community has often been accused of promiscuity, infidelity, and spreading sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV. Yet the reality is that anyone, of any sexual orientation, can have multiple sexual partners and practice unsafe sex.
However, progress towards improved LGBT rights is being made. Third gender cards have been issued in Pakistan and Nepal that protect transgendered individuals from discrimination. Adoption by same-sex couples is now legal in Brazil and Spain, with same-sex marriage now being legal in 14 countries worldwide.
“Despite all the inhuman and degrading treatment I’ve faced, I am more determined than ever to never let this background affect my future”, George explains. “My vision is to help other LGBTQI people like myself to become better individuals in society and also to create access to HIV treatment, care, and support”.
LGBT communities across the globe need continued support from the media and YOU, to get their voice heard.
What do you think should be done to improve LGBT rights?