Ken Roth interviewed in the blog of the World Economic Forum:
Almost 2.8 billion people are living in countries where identifying as gay could lead to imprisonment, corporal punishment or even death. In stark contrast, only 780 million people are living in countries where same-sex marriage or civil unions are a legal right.
These figures, reported by the International Lesbian and Gay Association in May 2014, show there is still much to be done in the effort to attain universal rights for LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual) communities worldwide. Yet there has also been significant progress over the past 10 years, and this too should be acknowledged. In this extract from the Outlook on the Global Agenda 2015, Kenneth Roth, the Executive Director of Human Rights Watch, is questioned on what has been achieved so far and the challenges that still lie ahead.
What progress has there been on LGBT rights since you established Human Rights Watch’s LGBT rights programme 10 years ago?
There’s been enormous progress globally and locally. It’s important to note that the fight for LGBT rights is not a Western phenomenon; many of the governments at the forefront of the defence of LGBT rights are from the developing world. The historic LGBT resolution at the United Nations Human Rights Council, adopted in September 2014, was led by governments from the global south, primarily Latin America, and backed by others from all over the world, including South Africa. Even governments usually opposed to human rights enforcement, such as Cuba, Venezuela and Vietnam, supported it.
Yet, because of this global support, we’re recently witnessing an intensifying backlash. To a large degree, this is due to the greater visibility of the LGBT community in societies that have begun to recognize their rights. But LGBT people are also convenient scapegoats for embattled leaders, who are trying to rally support from more conservative sectors of their society. Whether it’s Uganda, Nigeria or Russia, the decision to scapegoat the LGBT community is an outcome of serious challenges to the regime, for widespread corruption or abusive authoritarianism.