Celebrations of equality and campaigns against prejudice will take place around the world today (17 May) as part of the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.
The Day will be observed by people in countries with widely varying attitudes to sexuality, from those in which sexual minorities are openly criminalised and persecuted, to others where prejudice remains despite significant steps towards equality.
This is the sixth year that the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia has been observed. It is always held on 17 May.
This year, the Day also marks the beginning of International Same-Sex Hand-Holding Week. Organisers suggest that in many countries considered to be relatively progressive, same-sex couples are often still nervous of holding hands in public.
The charity Stonewall, which campaigns in the UK for the rights of gay, lesbian and bisexual people, has welcomed the International Day and insisted that there is still a long way to go to overcome homophobia in Britain.
“To many people, Britain now seems like a very accepting country for lesbian, gay and bisexual people,” said Stonewall's Laura Doughty, “But scratch the surface and it becomes sadly apparent that homophobia is still very much alive. For Stonewall, every day is a day against homophobia – and we’ll continue to campaign against it where it exists – at home, at school and at work.”
Doughty cited the recent case of Ian Baynham, whose alleged killers are accused of shouting homophobic insults as they kicked him to death in central London.
Stonewall's research suggests that one in five lesbian and gay people has experienced homophobic bullying at work in the last three years. The charity found that nine out of ten teachers say that homophobic bullying takes place in their school – but nine out of ten have received no training in dealing with it.
“Both parties in the new coalition government have made promises to take further steps to tackle homophobic bullying in schools,” explained Doughty, “Stonewall will continue to lobby ministers, as we have done for the past 21 years, to ensure this remains a firm priority on the political agenda”.