OURs - News piece

Safe abortions for all women who need them – not just the rich, say UN experts

GENEVA (27 September 2017) – Speaking ahead of International Safe Abortion Day, a group of United Nations human rights experts* has called on States across the world to repeal laws that criminalize and unduly restrict abortion and policies based on outdated stereotypes, to release all women in prison on abortion charges and to counter all stigma against abortion.

The experts also called for 28 September to become an official UN day for safe abortion worldwide, to help encourage Governments to decriminalize abortion and provide reproductive health services in a legal, safe and affordable manner. Their full statement is as follows:

“Women’s ability to make free choices for themselves and their families should not be privileges reserved for the rich, but should be the right of every woman and girl around the world. The same is true of the right to health and to freedom from discrimination.

Too many women around the world still continue to suffer from discriminatory laws that restrict their access to adequate health care and limit their abilities to make the best choices for themselves and their families.

To mark this year’s International Safe Abortion Day, we urge all States to end the criminalization of abortion and to ensure that all women are able to access all necessary health services, including sexual and reproductive health care, in a manner that is safe, affordable and consistent with their human rights.

We urge States to ensure that their laws, policies and practices are built on their human rights obligations and on the recognition of women’s dignity and autonomy.

At the moment, many factors contribute to women being denied essential health services for the termination of pregnancies and post-abortion care. These include criminalization, reduced availability of services, stigmatization, deterrence and derogatory attitudes of health-care professionals. These factors push millions of women into unsafe abortions and leave them without essential treatment for their recovery.

Denying women access to necessary health care is inherently discriminatory and a violation of their human rights. This discrimination is compounded for many women in vulnerable situations, including girls and adolescents who may face additional restrictions on their access to care, and women living in poverty who may lack the resources to access safe abortions.

Restrictions on access to safe abortion are the result of societal attitudes that stigmatize women and subject their bodies to other people’s political, cultural, religious and economic purposes. Criminalization of abortion further perpetuates stigma and discrimination, and infringes women’s dignity and bodily integrity.

The mental and physical suffering that women endure when they are denied the procedure, or the stigma they face for seeking it, are further violations of their human rights.

Over the course of the past 30 years, the Safe Abortion Day movement has spread from Latin America and the Caribbean and is now marked around the world, helping to persuade Governments to decriminalize the termination of pregnancy, end the stigma and discrimination around the practice, and provide services in a legal, safe and affordable manner.

We join our voices to the strong and brave ones of many non-governmental organizations calling for safe abortion worldwide. And we request that 28 September be made a UN official international day on safe abortion.”


Many international and regional human rights instruments have affirmed that ensuring women’s human rights requires access to safe abortion and post-abortion services and care, including the CEDAW Convention, the Convención de Belém do Pará and the Maputo Protocol of 2005. The 2016 CESCR General Comment No. 22 also calls for guaranteeing women and girls access to safe abortion services and quality post-abortion care to prevent maternal mortality and morbidity.

(*) The UN experts: Kamala Chandrakirana, Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice; Dubravka Simonovic, Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences; Dainius Pûras, Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. Ms. Agnes Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.

For further information, please refer to the following documents:
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women

Report on health and safety by the UN Working Group on discrimination against women

Report on the right to health of adolescents by the UN Special Rapporteur on health

Report on gender perspectives by the UN Special Rapporteur on torture

“They are coming for your children” – the rise of CitizenGo

The right-wing campaigning platform CitizenGo has coordinated mass online petitions – and offline actions. Its reach is growing, alarming human rights advocates.

This month, tourists and beachgoers in Spain will be treated to the sight of a bright orange plane, flying overhead, declaring its opposition to a proposed law against discrimination based on sexual orientation. Among other things, the bill would see businesses and organisations fined for non-compliance. It has been backed by the left-wing Podemos party and activists for LGBT rights.

The controversial stunt is the latest offline action from CitizenGo, an online hub for conservative campaigners that launched in 2010. It is known for coordinating large-scale e-petitions, including against transgender rights and abortion, and has been described as the right-wing counterpart to sites like MoveOn.org and Change.org.

At the US thinktank Political Research Associates, LGBT and gender researcher Cole Parke said the growth of groups like CitizenGo contrasts with the beliefs of some “progressive activists…that the opposition is an aging and increasingly irrelevant minority”. Parke said: “the right’s online savviness (and expanding political power) suggests that this is not at all the case”.

“They have self-consciously modelled themselves on MoveOn.org, Change.org or other petition sites,” activist and human rights lawyer Naureen Shameem told me. She works for the Association of Women’s Rights in Development (AWID) and is monitoring the backlash against sexual and reproductive rights, and growing “anti-rights” activism at the UN in particular.

CitizenGo has been on AWID’s radar for some time, as Arsuaga also sits on the board of a group called the World Congress of Families which organises large-scale regional and international conferences to create alliances between “pro-family” groups.

Shameem says these organisations “often speak and try to appropriate the language of human rights to their own ends.” She adds: “the focus of what they do is power orientated. A manipulation of religious arguments to increase power and undermine the universality of rights”

Increasingly conservative and religious right groups are appealing to what they call “parental rights” in their attempts to strengthen their “hierarchical and traditional concept of the family,” according to a report written by Shameem and published earlier this year by the new Observatory on the Universality of Rights.

In numerous countries CitizenGo has linked up with other like-minded organisations including grassroots and community-level “pro-family” groups. “They have become much more active at a regional level,” adds Shameem.

Read the full text from openDemocracy.

OURs - News piece

UN experts call for resistance as battle over women’s rights intensifies

Women’s rights are facing an alarming backlash in many parts of the world, and it is critically important to press on with further setting of standards on gender equality, a group of UN independent experts has warned.

“The world is at a crossroads, with the very concept of gender equality being increasingly contested in some quarters,” said the experts.

“We feel it is time to reiterate the backlash against the progress which has been made in promoting and protecting women’s human rights. The polarization in the battle for rights is being demonstrated increasingly, and regressive positions have become a serious threat to the human rights legal framework.

“The international community needs to keep moving forward on setting standards on gender equality to counter the alarming trends which are undermining human rights principles and jeopardizing the gains made in women’s rights.”

The experts restate their support for the repeal of all laws that discriminate against women on traditional, cultural or religious grounds and laws that exclusively or disproportionately criminalize action or behaviour by women and girls.

They also stress women’s rights to make decisions about their own bodies, and to receive comprehensive sexuality education so they can enjoy their right to sexual and reproductive health.

“We need more than ever to protect the fundamental principle that all rights are universal, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated,” the experts said.

“Despite this unbreakable principle, upheld in the 1993 Vienna Declaration on human rights, we are witnessing efforts by fundamentalist groups to undermine the foundation on which the whole human rights system is based.  Some of these efforts are based on a misuse of culture, including religion and tradition, or on claims related to State sovereignty.

“Under the disguise of protecting the family, some States are taking initiatives aimed at diluting human rights. We obviously recognise that the family is the fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection, but we insist on the need to re-assert women’s right to equality in all aspects of family life and recognise that diverse forms of families exist.”

The experts stress that discriminatory practices frequently take place within families, where, for example, women and girls may be limited to certain roles, experience harmful practices and patriarchal oppression, and suffer other human rights abuses including domestic violence and sexual abuse.

The experts insist that international human rights bodies need to guard against the backlash being witnessed, to ensure that the human rights legal framework is not undermined.

“In the current context, where women’s rights are being pushed back in all regions of the world, we need to continue denouncing any anti-rights rhetoric and actions which hinder the implementation of human rights standards, in particular regarding gender equality. Without equal rights in the family, gender equality will never be achieved,” the experts conclude.

Read the full statement from OHCHR.

IPPF EN Condemns Polish Move to Restrict Women’s Access to Contraception

IPPF EN is outraged by the Polish authorities’ latest move to limit access to emergency contraception. Last Friday 23rd June, Poland’s President Andrzej Duda approved a new law limiting access to the only available emergency contraceptive pill. The law will come into effect next month and will end prescription-free emergency contraception.

We condemn this outrageous violation of the private lives and intimacy of women and men. This not only tramples on women’s dignity and autonomy but it clearly aims to bully them into a pregnancy.

This is yet another example of reproductive coercion which will affect the lives of countless women and couples in Poland, particularly the youngest, poorest or most isolated. Government-mandated meddling with the reproductive lives of women, men and families is unacceptable.

These new restrictions were pushed through in May by Poland’s ruling rightwing Law and Justice (PiS) party and adopted in the Polish parliament. Polish president, Andrzej Duda, gave his official consent to the law last Friday despite the opposition of women and human rights groups and opinion polls showing most Poles opposed it.

This latest move follows an attempt to impose a total ban on abortion and undermine access to assisted reproduction. With this decision, the government blatantly flouts the will of its own people after hundreds of thousands of protesters hit the streets over last year’s proposal in what became known as the ‘Czarny Protest’.

On women’s rights within the European Union, we are faced with a dichotomy where girls living in the right place can get free contraception, including over-the-counter emergency contraception, while others face an uphill struggle. In Poland, even a teenage rape victim has to fight to find a doctor who may – or may not – help her. The new Polish law passed by the country’s archaic authorities allows for the potential abuse of power by doctors who may feel that they have a right to judge the sexual lives of women based on their own moral convictions.

As Europeans we cannot stand still and watch.

Read the full statement from IPPF.

HRC 35: Recognizing the critical role of WHRDs to support and implement the SDGs

Women human rights defenders are at the forefront of rights struggles across the breadth of the SDGs and in all human rights arenas. WHRDs are targeted in each area because of our work, including for what we do, the fact that we do it, and the identities we carry.

The Women Human Rights Defender International Coalition has particular intersectional contextual concerns which shape our defense of rights:

  1. Attacks on the entire framework of human rights
  2. Government efforts to limit space for civil society voice and action
  3. Rise in fundamentalisms across all regions and contexts (including those related to religion)
  4. Negative effects of globalisation, and neo-liberal economic ideology, including poverty and inequality
  5. Militarism and the devastating effects of proliferation of arms and defense industries and related spending
  6. Crises of governance and democracy
  7. Patriarchy, heteronormativity and other social norms that limit enjoyment of rights of women, WHRDs and all people.

In terms of SDG 3 and 5, we emphasize the following two main points:

1-WHRDs are involved in defense of rights related to health and are targeted as a result.

Our focus areas include rights to services, to non-discrimination in health services, to reproductive and sexual rights, rights to independent and autonomous decision-making about our bodies and our lives, and we also focus on specific issues such as access to or denial of medical care in detention. WHRDs also promote health-related rights related to ending torture and violence, whether at the hands of state agents such as police, or of family and community members, for which the state can bear responsibility, as well.

2- There is deep impact on the physical and mental health of WHRDs because of threats to and attacks against our work, our bodies and those of our colleagues and families, and even our offices.

This is true particularly for WHRDs who experience violence, torture, psychological harassment and other forms of discrimination and antagonism.

Recognizing the roles of WHRDs is critical to the support of and implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. These all must be better documented by the mechanisms of the Council, and by others in the human rights system, including by UN agencies and programs that address human rights defenders.

Would the panel address concrete ideas about the roles of women human rights defenders as they relate to the promotion and protection of the rights and implementation of the SGDs?

Thank you.

Read the full article from AWID.

HRC 35: Strong concerns on the resolution on the protection of the family

In Vienna, States reaffirmed their commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In that vein, we would like to express our strong concerns about the draft resolution on the protection of the family [A/HRC/35/L.21 on “Protection of the Family: Role of the family in supporting the protection and promotion of human rights of older persons.”]

Together with NGOs working on the rights of older persons, we highlight that this resolution:

  • reinforces ageist stereotypes,
  • fails to adequately recognize older persons as individual rightsholders and
  • falls far short of States’ obligations to respect, protect and fulfil their rights.

We reject its limited focus on ‘protection and assistance’ and failure to reflect research that the family is the primary site of violence against older persons. [We also note that the resolution ignores the work of the Open-ended Working Group on Ageing and ignores the conclusions of the Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons.]

This resolution is one of a series of Protection of the Family resolutions that aim to subvert the universality of international human rights; stifle diversity and autonomy; and to shift rights protections away from family members, including older persons, into the institution of ‘the family’. We are concerned that the resolution attempts to instrumentalize older persons and their rights towards these ends.

We are also concerned by the resolution’s failure to recognize that various forms of family exist everywhere, and its stating that “the family plays a crucial role in the preservation of cultural identity, traditions, morals, heritage and the values system of society,” without recognising that families can perpetuate discriminatory and harmful values and traditions, particularly against older women. Culture and tradition are not static or homogeneous; we all have equal human rights to participate in and create culture. [When powerful institutions attempt to claim ownership over, or enforce ‘authentic’ interpretations of culture, tradition, or values, individuals – particularly those who are marginalized or vulnerable – are denied their fundamental rights.

For these reasons, we do not believe this draft resolution is in line with human rights principles and standards and therefore call on the Core Group to withdraw it or for members of the Human Rights Council to amend or vote against it.

Read the full statement from AWID.

The World Congress of Families: A prime example of today’s anti-rights lobby

On Thursday 25 May 2017, ultra-conservative activists and policy-makers will come together in Budapest, Hungary for the 11th international World Congress of Families (WCF) under the title “Building Family-Friendly Nations: Making Families Great Again”.

As the biggest annual meeting of the right, the organizers have stated their hopes that this year’s WCF will “help launch a new global pro-family alliance of countries dedicated to defending marriage, the family and the sanctity of human life.

Throughout the four days (25-28 May) delegates from the clergy, civil society, the business world, and politics will build relationships and learn from each other’s tactics for achieving regressive change – all under the auspices of the Prime Minister of Hungary.

While extremely troubling, the WCF is not an exceptional event.  In fact, it can be seen as an archetypal example of much broader trends.  A new report released this week, documents the rise in numbers, increased coordination, and increasingly strategic approaches of anti-rights actors operating in international spaces, and the significant impact they have made so far.

Behind the Research

In 2016 a group of organizations and activists, including AWID, launched a collaborative project called the Observatory on the Universality of Rights – OURs, for short.

The project stemmed in part from a strategy meeting on religious fundamentalisms held by AWID in 2013, during which a number of participants raised concerns about the effects of ultra-conservative groups on our human rights, and shared the work they were doing already to resist.

A clear trend was visible: These anti-rights actors, both state and non-state, were working more concertedly than ever to undermine a core concept of human rights: their universality.

Universality is a cornerstone of international human rights law.  It encapsulates that we are all equally entitled to our human rights simply by being human – whatever our nationality, place of residence, gender, race, ethnicity, religion, language, sexuality, or any other status.

The OURs initiative decided to undertake a comprehensive study of the forces working to undermine universality, the impact they have had so far, and ultimately what this might mean for people’s lives.

© HazteOir.org | Flickr | WCF 2012

What did we find?

1. A large and complex anti-rights lobby

The research revealed an unprecedented level of engagement by anti-rights actors in international human rights spaces today.   Following an initial foray in the UN arena during the Beijing and Cairo conferences in the 1990s, these ultra-conservative actors have been increasingly targeting the international policy arena.

One of the most notable trends found is the tendency towards strategic alliances. The report maps a complex and evolving anti-rights lobby at the UN, with older forms of affiliation, based on religion or institution, giving way to pragmatic organizing according to shared goals.

2. An evolving repertoire of strategies

A striking finding of the research is that ultra-conservative actors – despite all their rigidity when it comes to worldview – very much move with the times when it comes to strategy.

Where anti-rights actors may have previously been explicit in their religious or “moral” motivations, they now often appeal to supposedly intellectual or “social science” arguments.  What is more, when certain human rights bodies prove difficult to infiltrate or influence, anti-rights groups find new points of entry.

Across all the strategies of these actors, some key trends are visible:

  • Learning from the organizing strategies of feminists and other progressives.
  • Adapting successful national-level tactics for the international sphere.
  • Moving from an emphasis on symbolic protest against the human rights system, to becoming subversive system “insiders”.

3. Expert “double-speak”

The report paints a picture of the myriad creative discourses anti-rights actors use to undermine the universality of rights.  In several cases, these actors take a legitimate concern or struggle and appropriate it for their agenda.

A good example is the way that anti-imperialist discourse is used by both ultra-conservative states and civil society organizations. This narrative revolves around the idea that national governments are being unjustly targeted by UN bodies, or by other states acting through the UN.

Of course, there is much to be said about the instances in which national governments are bullied by other states and by international institutions.

However, we documented the ways this discourse is co-opted to cast a powerful institution – the state – as the victim, in order to justify national exceptions to universal human rights standards. Tellingly, many of those who employ this discourse are in fact global North-based organizations.

Another striking finding is the trend towards co-opting the very language of human rights, women’s rights, and even the notion of “universal” itself.

To give just one example, conservative players have attempted to construct a new category of “parental rights”, which has no support in existing human rights standards.

While sounding something like a genuine area of human rights, this dangerous framework in fact works to twist the rights protections children have, as articulated in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to support the rights of parents to control their children and limit their rights and autonomy.

4. The impact on our rights is grave… but there is hope

Anti-rights actors have already had a substantive impact on our human rights framework, especially rights related to gender and sexuality.

Take the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), for example.  Precisely when addressing women’s human rights is of urgent importance, the very space dedicated to this has become extremely harder and harder to make advances in. Our energy is taken up trying to hold the ground against conservative backlash – sometimes even on agreements made 20 years ago!

At the Human Rights Council (HRC), in between progressive gains, we have increasingly witnessed ultra-conservative states aggressively negotiating out positive language and introducing hostile amendments to resolutions.

In a whole range of spaces beyond these two examples, the presence of regressive actors is being keenly felt.  However, we should not see this as a done deal.  

First of all, we should remember that these advances have, at least in part, been a response to the gains of feminism and other progressive movements – a backlash that indicates the extent of our power.

We can also take courage from the many times when anti-rights actors’ attempts were unsuccessful due to the strong efforts of progressive activists.

From the limited amount of regressive language conservative actors managed to insert into Agenda 2030, to the repeated fruitless attempts to block the new mandate of the Independent Expert on sexual orientation and gender identity, to the strong provisions on sexual and reproductive rights and health in the 2016 HRC resolution on discrimination against women – these regressive agendas can and will be thwarted.

Understanding the attacks, to strengthen our rights

This research was founded on the belief that to counter the advance of our “opponents” in human rights spaces we must have an intimate knowledge of the ways they operate. As the first report to come out of OURs, we have focussed most of our attention on the threat itself.

One might wonder if this detailed look at anti-rights efforts risks over-emphasis on the negative aspects of the picture. Our hope is that this first report will act as a strong foundation for building awareness and action in this area.  As we go on, the plan is to build upon these findings, including by documenting the important gains feminists and other progressive actors have made in recent years.

There are many progressive activists doing remarkable and sustained work on our rights related to gender and sexuality – we are many, and we are strong.  Our hope for this research is that it will provide the knowledge to make our collective struggle more strategic, more proactive, and ultimately more effective.


Let’s work together to defend the universality of rights!

Add your voice and apply to become an institutional member. Get in touch to learn more

Seventeen Years of Tracking the World Congress of Families

Today, the World Congress of Families is one of the major driving forces behind the U.S. Religious Right’s global export of homophobia and sexism.

The Political Research Association first reported on the World Congress of Families (WCF) in 2000, noting its role within the coalition of Christian Right groups that was beginning to emerge as a well-organized and influential force at the United Nations. Writing for The Public Eye, Jennifer Butler observed that the Christian Right had “discovered the power of organizing in the international arena,” and was working to “delay and where possible derail progressive change that might be obtained through UN conferences and treaties.”

In the years following the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo and the 1995 World Conference on Women in Beijing—the outcomes of which were hailed by progressive feminists as major victories for gender equality and sexual and reproductive health and rights—Butler reported that “Conservative Catholics, Mormons, Conservative Evangelicals and to a much smaller degree, Muslims and Jews, are developing institutional structures, political rhetoric and mobilized networks to bring their ‘family values’ message to the UN and the world.” She credited WCF with playing a key role in solidifying the group’s platform and collaboration.

Today, WCF is one of the major driving forces behind the U.S. Religious Right’s global export of homophobia and sexism. From its headquarters in Rockford, Illinois, WCF pursues an international anti-choice, anti-LGBTQ agenda, seeking to promote conservative ideologies that dictate who has rights as “family,” and who doesn’t. Through WCF’s advocacy and strategic support, these ideologies are increasingly being codified into regressive laws and policies all around the world, from the United Nations to the Kremlin.

In the lead up to WCF’s 2015 gathering in Salt Lake City, Utah, PRA co-produced an overview of the group and its key affiliates, along with a glossary of key terms used by the organization’s network of Religious Right accomplices to further thwart pro-LGBTQ and women’s rights initiatives

Read the full article from Political Research Associates.

General Comment on Redress for Torture adopted by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights

The Center of Reproductive Rights is delighted to share an update on the General Comment on Redress for Torture that has just been adopted by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

The General Comment can be accessed here: http://www.achpr.org/files/instruments/general-comment-right-to-redress/achpr_general_comment_no._4_english.pdf. Among the important developments contained in the new General Comment are the following:

 (A) The General Comment expressly requires states to take account of “the gendered nature of torture and other ill-treatment, including the particular effects of sexual and gender based violence, the aggravated impact of torture and other ill-treatment on children (Article 19);”

(B) It recognizes multiple (and non-exhaustive) grounds of discrimination including gender, health status, sexual orientation, gender identity, and economic status (Article 20).

(C) It calls for prompt access to redress for torture and notes that undue delays in ensuring redress constitute de facto denial of redress (Article 26).

(D)  States are mandated to provide protection mechanisms in contexts where victims of torture depend on perpetrators for care such as in healthcare institutions, and to ensure privacy and confidentiality for them including in relation to information about their health (Article 30).

(E) It provides in Articles 57-58 that [a]cts of sexual and gender based violence, or the failure by States to prevent and respond to such acts, may amount to torture and other ill-treatment in violation of Article 5 of the African Charter. This General Comment specifically refers to those acts of sexual and gender based violence that amount to a form of torture and other ill-treatment in view of the specific, traumatic and gendered impact of sexual violence on victims, including the individual, the family and the collective. These include physical and psychological acts committed against victims without their consent or under coercive circumstances, such as rape (including so-called ‘corrective rape’), domestic violence, verbal attacks and humiliation, forced marriage, isolation, dowry-related violence, trafficking for sexual exploitation, enforced prostitution, indecent assault, denial of reproductive rights including forced or coerced pregnancy, abortion and sterilisation, forced nudity, mutilation of sexual organs, virginity tests, sexual slavery, sexual exploitation, sexual intimidation, abuse, assault or harassment, forced anal testing, or any form of sexual or gender based violence of comparable gravity.

(F) The General Comment provides extensive guidance on different forms of redress in Articles 33-49, including stating that “[l]imited resources shall not justify a State’s failure to fulfil its obligation to provide comprehensive reparation…. (Article 34).”  It also provides detailed statements on accountability for sexual and gender based violence that amount to torture and ill-treatment (Articles 58-61). 

(G) It addresses torture and ill-treatment in conflict settings extensively in Articles 62-62 and notes that “[t]hough complementary, where there is doubt as to whether international human rights law or international humanitarian law prevails, preference should be given to the category of law that offers the best protection for the right of victims (Article 64).”

(H) The General comments ends with provisions on transitional justice (Articles 66-71), non-state actors (Articles 72-75) and implementation (Articles 76-79).

 Since 2015, the Africa program of the Center for Reproductive Rights has participated on a technical committee of experts that provides feedback to the Commission on a series of general comments on torture. During technical meetings in 2015 and 2016, we aimed to ensure that the general comment on redress would recognize the gendered dimensions of torture and the need to address reproductive rights violations that amount to torture, and we are pleased that the new general comment reflects this input in numerous ways.

Culture of Love, a UN Free & Equal campaign

Just ahead of the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia & Biphobia the UN Human Rights Office today launched a new UN Free & Equal mini-campaign that explores the role that culture and tradition play in the lives of lesbian, gay, bi, trans and intersex people around the world.

Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community

Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Culture and tradition are profound parts of our lives. They allow us to come together to mark life’s milestones, and celebrate our heritage and the people we love. For many, they provide a sense of home, of history and identity.

Culture and tradition belong to everyone. Each of us gets to interpret, adapt and practice the beliefs, customs and rituals that are meaningful to us as individuals. These are basic cultural rights – guaranteed to everyone without discrimination.

Sadly, some people see the inclusion of lesbian, gay, bi, trans and intersex (LGBTI) people as a threat to their cultural values. They may try, wrongly, to rationalize violence and discrimination as a way of protecting their beliefs in the name of culture and tradition. No matter how diverse people’s beliefs and values, culture and tradition are not a license to discriminate or an excuse for violence.

Culture and tradition are not fixed: they change over time and are viewed and interpreted differently within societies. There are traditions of hate and repression, just as there are traditions of equality and justice. It’s up to each of us to decide for ourselves which ones to carry on.

UN Free & Equal published three videos as part of the campaign. Tradition, Culture and Family can be watched from the campaign website.

  • In “Tradition”, a young man in Mumbai brings his boyfriend to a family celebration of the Festival of Holi.
  • In “Culture”, a genderqueer youngster in Britain joins their father at a soccer match and basks in the comradery that goes with supporting the local team.
  • In “Family”, Chinese parents shake off their initial hesitation and include their daughter’s same sex partner in their traditional Lunar New Year celebrations.