Amid a surge in anti-gay violence and repression in several countries, the United Nations’ human rights office on Friday launched its first global outreach campaign to promote tolerance and greater equality for lesbians, gays, transgender people and bisexuals.
Called Free & Equal, it’s an unprecedented effort by the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights to change public attitudes around the world on issues that have bitterly divided the U.N.’s own member states.
The multi-pronged campaign, announced at a news conference in Cape Town, South Africa will include videos and public-service announcements distributed through social media, a new website, a series of fact sheets, and engagement by celebrities well-known in different regions of the world.
“Changing attitudes is never easy... It begins with often difficult conversations,” said Navi Pillay, the high commissioner for human rights. “And that is what we want to do with this campaign. Free & Equal will inspire millions of conversations among people around the world and across the ideological spectrum.”
“The Universal Declaration of Human Rights promises a world in which everyone is born free and equal in dignity and rights no exceptions, no one left behind,” she said. “Yet it’s still a hollow promise for many millions of LGBT people forced to confront hatred, intolerance, violence and discrimination on a daily basis.”
According to the human rights office, at least 76 countries still criminalise consensual, same-sex relationships, and discrimination against LGBT people is widespread in many other nations.
Less than half of the U.N.’s 193 member states have gone on record in support of gay rights and in opposition to laws criminalising homosexuality.