As we move forward from Pride Month in June, and riding on the coattails of a successful 45-year anniversary of the Pride Parade here in Chicago, we must not forget the pervasive challenges for LGBTI rights that persist every day on a global scale.
The facts can be sobering. Today, around 80 countries criminalize same-sex relationships. In some of these places, legislation has emerged targeting LGBTI rights groups and activists simply for advancing the cause of equality. This means that something like an equality march or rainbow flagwhich have become hallmarks of Pride activities in our communitycould result in arrest, or worse.
What global ally will stand with LBGTI individuals? The answer, increasingly, and to some, surprisingly, is the United Nations ( UN ).
The UN has emerged as a key and vocal advocate for LGBTI rights, in addition to its usual roles of promoting peace and justice throughout the world. In June 2011, the UN Human Rights Council took the unprecedented move of passing a resolution affirming LGBTI rights. Later, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights compiled an in-depth report detailing the global scope of violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
The UN has also taken steps to educate and raise awareness among the public on LGBTI rights. Launched in 2013, its Free and Equal Campaign works to promote greater respect for the rights of LGBTI people everywhere. The campaign centers on the language of the first Article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which plainly declares: "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights."ï¿½
Prominent UN figuresincluding Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon himselfhave been photographed proudly carrying "Free and Equal" placards. The secretary-general has also declared, "Ending homophobia is a matter of personal security, dignity and even survival for countless individuals.ï¿½ It is also a long-term endeavorone that I believe is critical to the mission of the United Nations. As a part of that endeavor, the secretary-general moved to extend recognition of same-sex marriages to more than 40,000 UN staff members around the world irrespective of the policy of the employee's home country.
So whether we choose to advance the cause of equality in Illinois, or challenge discriminatory laws abroad, we here in Chicago and across the United States can readily identify with the UN declaration that we are all "born free and equal." As we move forward with this movement, the UN stands ready as one of our most active allies. We should draw on its support as a key partner.
Farah Salim is a member of the United Nations Association for the USA.