Beyond Russia: LGBT Rights Are Human Rights Around the World

Gay rights activists hold a banner reading 'This is pride' as they demonstrate in front of the Serbian Parliament on late Sep
Gay rights activists hold a banner reading 'This is pride' as they demonstrate in front of the Serbian Parliament on late September 27, 2013 in Belgrade. Serbia on September 27, 2013 banned Gay Pride for the third year running, saying the risk of allowing the parade to go ahead was too high. Following the ban, a few hundred gay activists gathered before Serbian government building late on September 27 carrying a huge banner that read 'This is pride.' Escorted by dozens of policemen in anti-riot gear, the group then marched throughout downtown Belgrade to the Serbian parliament building, holding a huge flag in rainbow colours. AFP PHOTO / ANDREJ ISAKOVIC (Photo credit should read ANDREJ ISAKOVIC/AFP/Getty Images)

Homophobic and transphobic violence happen everywhere. The issue of anti-LGBT violence in Russia has become a cause célèbre over the last several months, in part due to the approaching Winter Olympics in Sochi. And while this coverage shines a much-needed spotlight on the worsening plight of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Russians, it often fails to acknowledge that homophobic and transphobic violence are problems in every region of the world, including in the United States.

In more than 70 countries same-sex relations are illegal, and in five countries they can result in the death penalty. The list of human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity is daunting and, as stated by the United Nations, includes "killings, rape and physical attacks, torture, arbitrary detention, the denial of rights to assembly, expression and information, and discrimination in employment, health and education."

Only a few months ago LGBT activist Eric Ohena Lembembe was tortured and murdered in Cameroon. Peaceful meetings of LGBT groups in Uganda have been disrupted on more than one occasion. Attempts at pride parades in Ukraine have been met with violence. And in Moldova an anti-LGBT "propaganda" law has the potential to curtail free speech.

Yet these painful examples are incomplete if they don't also take into account the resilience and creativity of LGBT communities and our allies. From Bolivia to Malaysia, activists and organizations have been working to defend the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.

LGBT activists around the world are claiming their right to peacefully assemble. Gujarat, India, held its first-ever LGBT parade. Activists in Belgrade, Serbia, held their pride parade as well, despite it being officially banned. And Beijing, China, held its second annual gathering of LGBT activists, with representatives from 28 different regions across the country.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is just that: universal. It applies to all people in all countries. Or, as Hillary Clinton, Ban Ki-moon, and others have stated in various ways, "LGBT rights are human rights, and human rights are LGBT rights."

Attention to international LGBT issues is, thankfully, more prominent than ever. But to focus on only one nation is myopic and ignores the struggle for human rights and dignity of a great many people around the world.

This post was originally published on the Voices of IREX blog.