The UN asked LGBT activists and allies around the world what they're fighting to change in their countries.
With the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia approaching, the United Nations asked people around the world to help create a video that captures the strength and spirit that lesbian, gay, bi and trans (LGBT) advocates and allies bring to their work, and the sheer diversity of causes that help make up the movement globally. Hundreds of people in more than 20 countries responded to the UN's call - submitting footage of themselves with colleagues, friends and family members displaying signs that spell out the changes they're fighting for in their respective countries. Singer-songwriter Rachel Platten joined in - lending her hit "Fight Song" as the soundtrack. The result is an uplifting video that celebrates activism in all its diversity, and serves as a timely reminder of why the fight must go on for LGBT communities around the world.
For all the progress of the past decade, there's still plenty left to fight for. Seventy-six countries continue to criminalize same sex relationships, and most still lack effective anti-discrimination laws that protect LGBT people from unfair treatment. Every year, thousands of LGBT people are killed or badly hurt in hate crimes, with especially high levels of violence reported in Latin America. In many countries, including in the European Union, trans people are forced to undergo sterilisation just to access basic rights. Millions of children are bullied at school - many forced to abandon their education altogether. LGBT youth homelessness is a particular problem in some of the world's biggest cities, including in the United States, with countless kids rejected by their own parents, thrown out of home and ending up on the streets. And few people have even started to think about the abuse suffered by intersex people - or even understand what intersex means.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu once said "If you're neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor." Far from being neutral, the UN has become heavily engaged in the fight to end these abuses. In 2010, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon launched an appeal for the decriminalization of same sex relationships and for new laws to protect LGBT people from unfair treatment. In 2013, his then human rights chief, Navi Pillay, launched UN Free & Equal - an ongoing global, multimedia campaign aimed at challenging negative stereotypes and promoting greater acceptance. At the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, a coalition of countries has fought hard for the adoption of two unprecedented resolutions on human rights violations affecting LGBT people. The resolutions have in turn triggered reports from the UN Human Rights Office documenting abuses, urging countries that still criminalize gay and trans people to amend their laws, and calling on all countries to ban discrimination, tackle hate crime and protect LGBT activism and free speech.
Watching the UN's new video, the cry for equality, for love and understanding comes through loud and clear. But so too does the joy, resilience and determination that activists bring to their work, in spite of the risks involved and lives lost. In just over two minutes, viewers are taken on a whirlwind tour of the world - from Thailand to China, Uganda, Lebanon, Jamaica, the U.S., the United Kingdom, Japan, Poland, Sri Lanka, Kuwait, Costa Rica, Guyana, Cape Verde, Venezuela, Argentina, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Brazil, Fiji and Cambodia, as well as India - where Bollywood star and UN Equality Champion Celina Jaitly pops up in a cameo appearance. As the video ends, viewers are taken up to the 38th floor of the UN Secretariat Building in New York and into the private office of UN chief Ban Ki-moon, who joins in the sign-making. It's a striking gesture of solidarity on the part of the leader of the world body of nations - and one hard to imagine just ten years ago. For activists, it's a reminder that, whatever challenges lie ahead, they have powerful allies standing with them in the fight for rights and recognition.
The International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia is celebrated in many countries on 17 May each year.
To learn more about the UN Free & Equal campaign, visit www.unfe.org, or join the conversation on Facebook (facebook.com/free.equal) and Twitter (@free_equal).