May 12, 2016 at 6:00 am EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Advocates to mark global day against homophobia, transphobia

Randy Berry, gay news, Washington Blade

Special U.S. Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons Randy Berry is scheduled to attend events in D.C. and New York next week that will commemorate the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Advocacy groups in the U.S. and around the world will commemorate the annual International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia with a series of ceremonies, marches and other events.

Special U.S. Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons Randy Berry is scheduled to speak at a Human Rights First reception at the Rayburn House Office Building on May 17. The group will also honor two LGBT activists — Quality of Citizenship Jamaica Executive Director Angeline Jackson and Olena Shevchenko, chair of Insight, a Ukrainian advocacy group — during the event.

OutRight Action International will honor Berry and Yuli Rustinawati, chair of Arus Pelangi, an Indonesian LGBT advocacy group, during an awards ceremony at the U.N. on May 16. Charles Radcliffe, a senior human rights advisor for the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner, and Dan Bross of Microsoft will also receive awards.

Berry is also scheduled to deliver the keynote address at an LGBT rights conference that will take place at the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center on May 20.

The Institute of Current World Affairs, a Washington-based organization, has organized the event that advocates from Zimbabwe and other countries are expected to attend. U.S. Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) will co-host the conference that the Center for Transatlantic Relations and the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting have co-sponsored.

Chilean presidential palace to be lit in rainbow colors

Mariela Castro, daughter of Cuban President Raúl Castro who directs the country’s National Center for Sexual Education, is expected to take part in a series of events in Havana and the city of Matanzas in the coming days that will commemorate the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia on the Communist island.

“We must start by overcoming society’s stereotypical view of LGBTI people, its belief that they only want recognition,” Mariela Castro told Granma, the official newspaper of the Communist Party, during an interview in which she discussed IDAHOT and the progress she feels her country has made on LGBT-specific issues. “The issue goes beyond that, it extends to the sphere of respect and guaranteeing these people their rights.”

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet earlier this month announced her country’s presidential palace will be illuminated in rainbow colors on May 17 to commemorate IDAHOT.

“We thank President Michelle Bachelet for this gesture,” said Rolando Jiménez, director of the Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation, a Chilean LGBT advocacy group, in a press release. “But in a country where cases of homophobia and transphobia occur everyday, strong signals in support of equality and against discrimination that serve to prevent and, especially, to give hope to those who suffer abuses are required.”

Israel’s Ministry of Education plans to publish on its website a curriculum the Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance has created in honor of Shira Banki, a teenager who was stabbed to death last July during a Pride march in Jerusalem. LGBT rights advocates in neighboring Lebanon have also scheduled a series of events to mark IDAHOT.

Mariela Castro Espín, Cuba, gay news, Washington Blade, International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, IDAHAT

Mariela Castro speaks at an International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia rally in Las Tunas, Cuba, on May 16, 2015. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers) (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

ILGA-Europe on Tuesday released its annual report that ranks European countries on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex issues.

Malta, Belgium and the U.K. received the highest scores on the report that ILGA-Europe announced during its’ fourth annual IDAHOT forum in Denmark. Azerbaijan, Russia and Armenia ranked the lowest.

“Contrary to popular belief, LGBTI equality is far from being a done deal in Europe,” said ILGA-Europe Executive Director Evelyne Paradis.

‘Fault lines’ widening between countries on LGBT rights

IDAHOT — which was previously known as the International Day Against Homophobia — first took place on May 17, 2005, to commemorate the World Health Organization’s decision to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder.

Same-sex couples now have marriage rights in the U.S. and more than 20 other countries. Jamaica and Uganda are among the more than 70 countries in which consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized.

This year’s IDAHOT will take place less than a month after Islamic militants hacked Xulhaz Mannan, founder of Bangladesh’s first LGBT magazine, and his friend, Mahbub Rabbi Tonoy, to death inside an apartment in the country’s capital of Dhaka.

“This year, the main observation we can make is that we are seeing the ‘fault lines’ deepening between places where activism is increasing and those where it’s repression that is on the rise,” Joel Bedos, director of the International Day Against Homophobia Committee, told the Washington Blade on Tuesday in an email.

“On the one hand, activism in some countries is definitely increasing, with more and more visible events and strong support from institutions, which the day has always been a good framework for,” he said, while noting some LGBT advocates have asked him not to publish their names because of the potential backlash. “In some other places, there is increased state and social repression even though the levels of activism have not seen any significant change.”

Bedos also called for more support of LGBT rights advocates and organizations around the world.

“As we see all the fantastic energy and creativity which the activists deploy around May 17, we feel it is more than ever urgent to increase the capacity and resources of activists to stand their ground and promote positive social change,” he told the Blade.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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