Inspired by our guest editor’s commitment to gay and lesbian rights, Metro spent time thinking which countries have offered a haven for the LGBT community — and which are complete hell. Here’s a closer look at how we’re doing worldwide.
“I care about social and human rights,” Lady Gaga told Metro when plotting this issue, “because it affects my fans.” She couldn’t have picked better timing: Today is International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, a day dedicated to raising awareness about gay rights worldwide.
To find out which countries need more awareness than others, we asked someone close to the ground: Cary Alan Johnson, executive director of the International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission. His organization advances human rights via advocacy on the local level, reporting from every continent.
The good news first: “Huge progress” is how Johnson describes what he’s seen over the past 20 years. Canada, the U.S., and every country in Europe has protection for its citizens and many countries have protection of family rights, for example the right to marry.
“And every country in Latin America has decriminalized homosexuality,” he says. “We even have progress in some African countries. We still have two-thirds criminalizing it but some, like Mozambique, have made it clear that they’re committed, while South Africa has the most progressive constitution in the world, even going so far as to uphold the right to marry and to adopt children.”
And now the bad news: Even in those countries, violence still strikes. In “progressive” South Africa, just last month, Noxolo Nogwaza, a 24-year-old well-known lesbian activist, died after being stabbed with glass shards, during what’s known locally as a “corrective rape.” A used condom and empty glass bottle were found on top of her body.
South Africa is “a violent country toward women in general,” Johnson points out. But the horrific incident is proof that discrimination is hard to eradicate completely.
“Those in the Middle East and certain parts of Africa are still mired in a certain type of social conservatism that leads to violence,” says Johnson, adding that poverty and religion complicate matters. What’s worse, kids who are “different” are often denied an education. “Lesbian girls in Uganda get thrown out of schools,” he says.
“Transgender kids in Belize and other places in the Caribbean cannot attend. Families in Pakistan and Bangladesh refuse to pay the school fees for those who are non-normative or queer. If you can’t get an education, you can’t support yourself and you’ll always face discrimination.”
So what can one do? Activate. Unite. And be patient. “Time” is Johnson’s prescribed cure. “It’s generational,” Gaga tells us. The world will accept gays when they see they’re normal people, like our postmen and doctors and … international superstars.
“Gaga goes above and beyond for the rest of us,” says Johnson. “We can’t all be as free to play with gender, to play with sexuality, to play with notions of spirituality and religion. She does it for us and stands firm. So we deeply appreciate that. She’s speaking out.”