UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay warned Tuesday that hate crimes against gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender (LGBT) people are on the rise worldwide, marking the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. Pillay said that statistics show that homophobic-based crimes are on the rise [UN News Centre report] around the world, urging that states act to stop this trend. Homosexuality remains a criminal offense in more than 70 countries, and Pillay argues that states have an obligation to decriminalize the behavior under international law. In a video message, Pillay said homophobia and transphobia are the same as other condemned forms of prejudice:
Homophobia and transphobia are no different to sexism, misogyny, racism, or xenophobia, but whereas these last forms of prejudice are universally condemned by governments, homophobia and transphobia are two often overlooked. Each and everyone of us is entitled to the same rights, to the same respect, and ethical treatment regardless of our sexual orientation or gender identity.
In the US, some measures have been taken to stop hate crimes against LGBT individuals. In March, US Representative Jared Polis (D-CO) and Senator Al Franken (D-MN) [official websites] introduced legislation to protect LGBT students [JURIST report] in federally funded public elementary and high schools from bullying. In 2009, US President Barack Obama signed into law [JURIST report] a bill that contained a measure extending the definition of federal hate crimes to include crimes motivated by gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability. Homosexuality remains a crime in many countries including Uganda, which has been harshly criticized throughout the international community since the introduction [BBC report] in October 2009 of its Anti-Homosexuality Bill [text, PDF], which has since been stalled in the Parliament. The bill would impose harsh penalties for homosexuality, including death in some circumstances, and imposes punishments of up to three years in prison for individuals, including family members, who fail to report offenders. Uganda currently criminalizes homosexual behavior [BBC report] with up to 14 years in prison. Last year, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon [official website] called for countries around the world to abolish laws discriminating against gay and lesbian individuals [JURIST report].