HRC Honors the 71st Annual Human Rights Day

by Matilda Young

This Human Rights Day, we reflect on the pivotal progress our community has made and on the critical work that remains to protect and empower LGBTQ people around the world.

Today, HRC Foundation commemorates Human Rights Day, marking the date in 1948 when the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The declaration was the first time the global community spelled out a set of inalienable rights everyone is entitled to have, including LGBTQ people.

“This Human Rights Day, we reflect on the pivotal progress our community has made and on the critical work that remains to protect and empower LGBTQ people around the world,” said HRC President Alphonso David. “This year, in nearly every part of the world, we have seen advocates secure landmark victories for our community. But we also continue to see systemic oppression and violence toward LGBTQ people around the world and a White House whose own indifference and actions are putting countless people at risk. We must recommit ourselves to advancing the global movement for equality and building a world where every person can thrive no matter what country they call home.”

HRC is committed to deepening and expanding its global justice work, including supporting global businesses that are working to build inclusive and welcoming workplaces for all. Just yesterday, the Human Rights Campaign launched its second HRC Equidad CL: Programa de Equidad Laboral survey evaluating LGBT-inclusive policies and best practices at major Chilean employers. And last Thursday, HRC President Alphonso David was on the ground in Mexico City to launch the third annual HRC Equidad MX: Programa Global de Equidad Laboral -- a survey evaluating LGBT workplace inclusion within major Mexican businesses and multinationals. Since its inception, the program has experienced unprecedented growth -- this year, 120 employers have earned top ratings.

Earlier this fall, HRC also announced a major initiative to pursue strategic litigation in countries where litigation can make a difference. HRC will work with in-country partners and top-tier international law firms to identify change opportunities and support impact litigation efforts. In addition to strategic litigation, HRC Foundation’s Global program will continue to work with organizations on topics ranging from designing advocacy campaigns, challenging discriminatory laws and policies, engaging allies and changing societal institutions to be more inclusive. 

In 2019, our global community witnessed much-needed progress. Same-sex couples won marriage equality in AustriaTaiwanEcuador and Northern Ireland through the courts and legistures. Taiwan became the first country in Asia to legalize marriage between same-sex couples. In addition, this year, Angola adopted a new penal code that overrode a ban on “vices against nature,” and in Botswana, the High Court voided as unconsitutional laws criminalizing same-sex sexual relations. And at the U.N., HRC collaborated with partners to secure the renewal of the mandate of the Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity. 

While this progress is critical, HRC also recognizes that much more work remains to be done to protect and empower the global LGBTQ community. Violence against LGBTQ people, in particular transgender people, continues to be a grave challenge worldwide. Throughout this year, HRC has worked closely with partners in country to sound the alarm about attacks and murders of LGBTQ activists, assaults on LGBTQ people at Pride events and murders of transgender women. Toward the end of the year, Uganda’s LGBTQ community has seen a troubling surge in anti-LGBTQ violence and arrests. 

With its silence and inaction, the Trump-Pence administration is abandoning LGBTQ people at home and abroad. The State Department has convened a potentially dangerous new “Commission on Unalienable Rights.” And this administration has also made it more difficult for refugees and immigrants to come to the U.S., issuing numerous executive orders and policies to block people from entering the country -- preventing individuals from escaping anti-LGBTQ violence and putting them at further risk. 

While the Trump-Pence White House continues to turn its back on human rights, HRC praises members of Congress who continue to demonstrate bold leadership in prioritizing LGBTQ equality around the world, including those who today supported the Senate introduction of the Greater Leadership Overseas for the Benefit of Equality (GLOBE) Act. The measure addresses a wide array of policy areas key to improving the lives of LGBTQ people around the globe.