Madaline George ist Menschenrechtsanwältin und Mitbegründerin der Organisation Citizen of the World. Bevor sie im vergangenen Jahr nach Hamburg zog, arbeitete sie als wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin im Bereich der Forschung des Internationalen Strafrechts und der Menschenrechte. Des Weiteren war sie in den Vereinigten Staaten von Amerika und Südafrika als Anwältin für MigrantInnen und Geflüchtete tätig und setzte sich dort für Menschen ein, die auf Grund ihrer Sexualität verfolgt wurden.
Madaline George – With the recent vote in German parliament to legalize same-sex marriage, Germany is set to become the 24th country in the world allowing gay marriage. Although this is an important step, we must not ignore that the right to marry regardless of gender or sex is only one aspect of equality and gay rights.
Setting aside for now the argument of some gay activists who view marriage as a heteronormative institution that allows governments to bring the gay community into the larger society view of what is acceptable, there are many other legal barriers and lack of protections that we must recognize.
Even within some countries where gay marriage is legal, gay individuals are at risk of losing their jobs and housings simply because of their sexuality. Legal protections against hate speech, typically used to fight against hateful language targeting race, religion, or national origin, are rarely extended to protect slurs targeting sexuality. Medical care rights, military service, and parental rights are just a few other areas where there tends be to a lack of equality and protection, regardless of a country’s marriage laws.
And while it is true that 24 countries now allow gay marriage, mostly in Europe and the Americas, there are many more that do not. And although these 24 countries have all made this important change, the first being the Netherlands in 2000, we have seen in the past 20 years many countries moving in the opposite direction.
Indeed, homosexual acts are punishable by death in 10 countries, all located in the Middle East and Africa, and are illegal in a further 65 countries. In these countries, members of the LGBT community struggle for recognition of some of their basic human rights – including freedom of association and freedom from violence.
Although some of these laws date back many years (it is important to know that 42 of these countries are former British colonies and inherited the legacy from then), others have been recently adopted. In this way, they must be seen, in part, as a response to and backlash against growing acceptance and awareness of LGBT rights elsewhere. One must only consider Russia to see the anti-homosexuality direction many governments are taking.
Indeed, we have seen a lack of leadership in this area from international institutions such as the UN. In fact, the United Nations political bodies had not discussed LGBT rights until 2006 when Norway presented a statement on human rights violations based on sexual identity. And it was not until 2011, when, led by South Africa, a resolution was narrowly passed requesting that the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights draft a report on discriminatory laws and practices and acts of violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
This is why we continue to have annual Pride celebrations around the world. Pride of course began as a small movement, more similar to protest than celebration, of gays and allies fighting for recognition and for their rightful place in society. The movement has evolved through the years in line with laws and social attitudes. And while it may have a feeling of happiness and celebration here in Germany, it is important to recognize that in many places, Pride week or day is still as much as a battle as it was when it began in New York. In many cities and countries, those planning and attending Pride are risking violence and prosecution. Just a few weeks ago, Turkish police violently broke up the gay pride protest in Istanbul, which the government had previously tried to ban.
This just goes to show why we must continue to show solidarity around the world. We must use Pride Week as much to celebrate how far we have come as we do to continue fighting for a better and more equal future for those around the world and here in our own backyard.