Three Italian Catholic cardinals have agreed to prayer vigils held by the religious group Gionata for the victims of gay hate and discrimination for the first time.
LGBT groups will pray for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Milan, Florence and Palermo, in Sicily as part of the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO) to be celebrated tomorrow (17 May) in an estimated 100 countries around the world.
From Fiji Islands to United States of America, from Australia to Kyrgyztan, LGBT and pro-rights associations have organized meetings, conferences, religious vigils, events and parties.
The UK’s Trade Union Congress general secretary Brendan Barber summed up why IDAHO is important: ‘Unions have campaigned for equal rights for LGBT people in the UK with a great deal of success, but around the world the situation is very different.
‘In many countries, LGBT people face harassment, intimidation, violence, ostracism, hate crimes – and even death – just because of their sexuality.’
So, according to the organizers, the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia – celebrated for the first time in 2005 - is a chance for organizations, LGBT associations, unions, governments and religious groups to highlight the suffering of LGBT people all around the world.
Another aim of the celebration is to demand that the way they are treated is improved – both at work and in everyday life.
Barber said: ‘Homosexuality is still illegal in at least 80 countries around the world and in seven countries women, men and children are punished for their sexuality with death sentences.’
All around the world, the IDAHO will be a chance of remembrance, reflection and action.
Even in Central Asia: until next week, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, Bishkek, is going to host the ‘Week against Homophobia and Transphobia – 2012’, organized by several groups for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the city, with the assistance of allied organizations.
In Fiji Islands, the Drodrolagi Movement (droMo), in conjunction with the University of the South Pacific's School of Government, Development and International Affairs have organised a panel discussion to mark the day.
Among the panelists are an Anglican priest, Fiji Women's Rights Movement feminist activist Tara Chetty and Ashwin Raj, a USP academic and activist. The panel will be moderated by Mereia Carling, a UNICEF representative.
In some countries celebrations will last just one day, in other countries they will last a whole week. In Atlanta, United States of America, events will be recorded live for broadcast on a radio programme and will follow this year’s international theme ‘Sexual diversity in the workplace: it pays off!’.
The church of the State of Georgia is involved, but religious movements are involved too.
Similarly in Italy, home of the Catholic church, the Gionata group has organized various prayer vigils.
More suprisingly, the group has gained official support. Cardinal Paolo Romeo, in Palermo, is one of three cardinals who have backed it, even though he banned the vigil last year. The liturgy there will be celebrated at 9pm tomorrow in the San Gabriele Arcangelo church.
Another Catholic country, Philippines, is also celebrating. The House of Representatives today burst out in the rainbow colors as leftist lawmaker Teddy Casiño welcomed to Congress human rights activists for the eighth Philippino IDAHO.
LGBT associations are asking the Philippines government to also declare IDAHO as a national day against homophobia.
Casiño said: ‘The government must take a proactive struggle against homophobia and transphobia by including LGBTs not only in legislation but actual everyday government planning and project implementation.
‘This is the first step but not the only step if the Philippines wants to achieve zero level homophobia and transphobia according to global standards.’
South of Philippines, Australia is going to celebrate as well. The city of Geelong near Melbourne, in the State of Victoria, today (16 May) raised a rainbow flag in a symbol of support of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
The flag was hoisted on top of the old Post Office and Geelong mayor John Mitchell said: ‘To me, this symbolises Geelong growing up. I have no doubt this is a historic day for our city.’
About 15 schools, community organisations and businesses will take part in various IDAHO events across Geelong during this week.