Tutu supports UN gay campaign
Global education to boost LGBT equality
ARCHBISHOP Emeritus Desmond Tutu, pledging his support for a new UN global education campaign for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality, has declared he will not worship a homophobic God.
Tutu is among a group of celebrities who have thrown their weight behind the Free & Equal Campaign, launched yesterday at the Clock Tower at the V&A Waterfront, which includes pop star Ricky Martin, singer Yvonne Chaka Chaka and Bollywood actress Celina Jaitly.
Yesterday Tutu said he would “refuse to go to a homophobic heaven”.
“No, I’d say sorry. I mean, I’d much rather go to that other place,” he said, adding “we have to build a society that is accepting”.
It was not a free society, Tutu said, “until every single person knows they are acknowledged and accepted for who they are”.
Free & Equal is the UN’s first global public education campaign intended to tackle homophobia and transphobia.
Tutu said that people were killed because of their sexual orientation. “How would I keep quiet? “It is as unjust as racism was... This God created them ( LGBT people). Each one is precious. They are human. They become judges. They are not a peculiar breed. I pray this campaign is as successful as it deserves to be,” he said.
The year-long campaign was announced yesterday by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, who was joined by Tutu and Justice Edwin Cameron of the Constitutional Court.
The campaign is a follow-up to a UN report, from December 2011, that documented widespread human rights abuses.
Pillay said: “My office at the United Nations regularly receives reports of individuals who have been attacked, sexually assaulted, kidnapped, tortured, even murdered, simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity... In over a third of the world’s countries, consensual, same-sex conduct remains a criminal offence.”
Free & Equal was launched with a public service announcement titled The Riddle.
“Over the coming year, we will be releasing a variety of creative content – including videos, articles, maps and other graphics – all intended to dispel negative stereotypes and encourage more informed discussion,” Pillay said.
Plans include a series of films interviewing family members of LGBT people from around the world.
She added that the material would be made available on the campaign’s website, UNFE.org, and was designed for easy sharing on social media.
Justice Cameron was equally supportive of the campaign.
In 2011 he made headlines when a letter he wrote to Spud producer Ross Garland appeared on the Constitutionally Speaking blog. He referred to “casual denigration of gays... that occasionally spike up in the movie”.
At Free & Equal’s launch yesterday he said: “I am a judge of the highest court and I am a homosexual man... I am a proudly and openly gay man.”
The biggest foe of LGBT equality, he charged, was “invisibility and silence”. “We look like everyone else. “My hope for this campaign is that the UN promises of freedom and equality are also promised to the LGBT community... My country is a beacon of constitutional equality. In practice, we have a long way to go... By denying our humanity, you are denying your own.”
Although the campaign is global and not targeted at South Africa specifically, Pillay said that while South Africa had “some of the best laws in the world, when it comes to protecting the rights of gay and lesbian people”, some of the worst cases of homophobic violence were recorded here.
“People are literally paying for their love with their lives,” she said.
ARCH SUPPORT: Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, centre, pledges his support for the UN’s new anti-homophobia campaign Free & Equal. He is flanked by Justice Edwin Cameron of the Constitutional Court, left, and UN Human Rights High Commissioner Navi Pillay.