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2013-01-31

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January 30, 2013 - 9:25pm

The Justice League: Gaping holes in the human rights fabric

BY YASH BHUTADA

The fabric of human rights is elegant and beautiful. It’s a bundle of thread that enables coexistence and stirs activism, but when mishandled, the diaphanous fabric tears and collapses. Most impressive, however, is its universality. It’s explained by the United Nations as a “freedom for all without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion.” Unfortunately, this definition has created gaping holes in the fabric, and the idea of sexuality and gender identity seemed to have slipped right through it.

Imagine your middle and high school years — I’d assume that for most, they aren’t pleasant. Who hasn’t been subjected to teasing or bullying? Who hasn’t dealt with malicious or snarky comments from obnoxious teenagers who think they rule the school? Now, take a step back from your experiences and think about someone else’s. Think of what it would have felt like if you knew that you could never be married to the person you loved. Think of living in constant fear of not fitting in and identifying with less than 3 percent of the world’s population. Think of how simply being yourself means that you have committed a felony in 76 countries. Or worse, it means you would be executed in seven.

Homosexuality is frequently put on the backburner of dialogue. Even simple conversation makes people uncomfortable. If you identify as part of the LGBTQ community, you are part of one of the most marginalized populations on this planet, and thus, you are silenced as a minority. Even if you are a straight ally of the LGBTQ community, you fear being judged by those who don’t agree with your views on sexuality. You fear being called homosexual or queer. You fear being shunned by other heterosexuals because they taunt you for “swinging the other way.”

There’s some hope though. We have seen legislation for same-sex marriage proposals around the United States and gay pride parades across the world. Even the Boy Scouts of America has proposed to move away from its deeply entrenched policy of barring homosexuals from obtaining membership. We don’t have time for these marginal shifts, however. We need a larger movement to dismantle this flagrant human rights violation. And perhaps the first step toward real progress is having the United Nations include sexuality and gender-identity as part of the list of undeniable freedoms.
What do you need to do about this? Spread the message. Engage in productive dialogue. Send letters to U.N. Ambassadors. You have a voice — so do something with it.

Yash Bhutada can be reached at yashbh@umich.edu.


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