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LGBT Rights Are Indeed Human Rights

LGBT Rights Are Indeed Human Rights

LGBT Rights are Human Rights

During this month's Pride, don't forget all the battles being fought -- and won -- outside the U.S.

In my neighborhood in Washington, D.C., rainbow flags are proudly displayed on porches and storefronts, couples can walk hand in hand without fear, and June brings crowds of all ages and backgrounds to celebrate the LGBT community.

Which is as it should be, since what could be more fundamental than the right to be yourself? But of course, we know that in too many other neighborhoods around the country and around the world, it's not so simple.

And while one of our newer neighbors on Pennsylvania Avenue claims to be a friend to LGBT people, his track record on human rights in general and his deference to governments that are decidedly hostile are enough to make anyone who values equality apprehensive.

After several years of progress that saw the fall of "don't ask, don't tell" and the demise of the cruelly named Defense of Marriage Act, we are now seeing a disturbing backslide on the state level. The passage of discriminatory U.S. state laws denying transgender schoolkids the simple dignity of using the restroom in peace, or laws allowing state-funded adopted agencies to bar same-sex couples from providing loving homes to children in need of a family are sobering reminders of the work yet to be done.

Globally, LGBT rights are also increasingly under attack. In the last few weeks, two men in Aceh province in Indonesia were publicly flogged 83 times for having sex. This was just days after 141 men were arrested elsewhere in Indonesia for attending what police described as a "gay sex party." Same-sex sexual relations are legal outside of Aceh province in the country, but extremely strict pornography laws are regularly twisted to persecute LGBT people.

A similar incident occurred in Bangladesh, which is one of the 72 countries in the world where homosexuality is illegal, and where a prominent LGBT blogger was hacked to death last year. Twenty-seven men were arrested and charged for drug-related crimes, but the raid was clearly meant to intimidate any other gatherings of gay men for fear of arrest.

And these are just what made the headlines this month, joining the horrific reports of the kidnapping, torture, and killing of gay men in Chechnya -- whose government denies their very existence.

It's tempting to take a look at the actions of those who sit at the top of this current administration and despair. But that's exactly what we cannot do. Now more than ever is when human rights defenders must take a brave stance against oppressions large and small to demand that our leaders respect the fact that LGBT rights are human rights.

Because as discouraging as some of the news reports have been, there have been historic high points as well. Taiwan is on track to become the first government in Asia to recognize same-sex marriages, and Japan is looking to liberalize its antidiscrimination laws to ensure equal rights to LGBT people.

At a time when so much has been gained and yet still so much needs to be done, it is critical that we not back down. We cannot retreat into our bubbles -- if we're privileged enough to even have a bubble -- and hope that things get better. While we fill our streets with crowds marching in a rainbow spectrum of solidarity this month, we will call for justice for those who fear being seen at all. And we will continue the fight all year round until everyone can live their lives in freedom.

TARAH DEMANT is senior campaigner at Amnesty International USA.

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Tarah Demant