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United in Diversity: EU solidarity message on IDAHOT

Business

Paola Amadei

Today we gather to commemorate the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia (IDAHOT) created to draw the attention to the violence and discrimination experienced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex persons and all other persons with diverse sexual orientations, gender identity or expression, and sex characteristics.

It is important to remember that the date 17 May was chosen to commemorate the World Health Organisation’s decision in 1990 – so just 34 years ago – to remove homosexuality from the list of mental disorders.

The theme of 2024 is ‘No one left behind: equality, freedom and justice for all’. Just recently, the world celebrated the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Its crucial role as a global guidepost is clear, yet its assertion that “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights” is a promise that remains unmet. This is especially the case for LGBTQI+ individuals and the ones experiencing intersecting layers of inequalities. When human rights of LGBTQI+ persons around the globe are increasingly under threat, the power of solidarity, allyship and community across national borders is imperative.

On this important occasion, I would like to thank the People’s Matrix for the invitation and for collaborating on a joint press release to mark this year’s IDAHOT. I would also like to commend them for all their brave work in support of the LGBTQI+ community here in Lesotho, whether it is through advocacy, awareness-raising, research or participation in local and international fora. 

This is not the first time that the European Union has been able to join forces with the People’s Matrix – together with Sesotho Media and Development they have facilitated film-screenings with members of the LGBTQI+ community, enabling them to also discuss some of the challenges faced by the community when dealing with law enforcement officials.

Within the European Union, we have made significant strides in advancing LGBTQI+ rights through comprehensive legislation and progressive policies aimed at safeguarding the rights and dignity of all individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. For example, the EU LGBTIQ Equality Strategy, adopted in 2020, sets out a comprehensive framework for promoting equality and combating discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and sex characteristics.

The European Union has also been a steadfast supporter for the human rights of LGBTQIA+ persons globally. We have been supporting civil society organisations in their endeavours to strengthen the protection of LGBTQIA+ persons, address impunity, violence and stigma, advocate for anti-discriminatory laws and laws that foster further equality, and contribute to building powerful movements across the globe, including in multilateral fora.

European Union has also been engaging through political dialogues, human rights dialogues, awareness-raising activities and supporting LGBTQIA+ rights defenders in their work, including in emergency situations. For example, between January 2020 and December 2022, approximately 850 LGBTQIA+ human rights defenders worldwide received support channeled by the EU via the consortium ProtectDefenders.eu.

This year’s IDAHOBIT takes place at a time when we witness alarming rates of violence against LGBTIQ+ persons worldwide. Since last IDAHOT, discussions on further criminalisation ignited in a number of countries. We witnessed new laws criminalising LGBTIQ+ persons, court decisions stigmatising the movement as ‘extremist’ and otherwise leading to further discrimination under the guise of ‘protecting the traditional family’. This goes together with foreign information manipulation and interference (FIMI), including disinformation campaigns targeting the LGBTIQ+ community, spreading harmful information and fuelling violence and hate speech.

In this context, the European Union together with its partner The People’s Matrix reaffirm their unwavering commitment to standing up against injustice and advocating for the universal rights and freedoms of all individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression. We believe that diversity is our strength and that every person deserves to live openly and authentically, free from fear and discrimination.

The European Union’s motto for more than 2 decades now has been “United in diversity”. It is therefore fitting that IDAHOT forms part of our Europe month, a month when we come together as Europe with our partners to work for peace and prosperity, while at the same time being enriched by each other’s cultures, traditions and languages.

As we mark this important day, let us recommit ourselves to the principles of equality, dignity, and respect for all members of the LGBTQI+ community. Together, let us continue to strive for a world where every individual can live with pride and without prejudice, where love is celebrated in all its forms, and where the fundamental rights of all people are fully upheld and protected.

Thank you.

Khotso. Pula. Nala.

Paola Amadei is the current Head of the European Union Delegation to the Kingdom of Lesotho. This is the message of solidarity she delivered on International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOT) on May 17, 2024.

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