LGBTQ Rights As Human Rights

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The opening words of the United Nations Charter, Universal Declaration of Human Rights are that: “All human beings are born equal and free in terms of dignity and rights.” The equality and non-discrimination guaranteed to each and every person by international human rights law applies regardless of their sex, sexual 0rientation and gender identity or “other status.” There no hidden exemption clause or fine print, in any of the human rights treaties that allow a State to guarantee full rights to some but withhold the same rights from others on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

In the recent few years, the failure to uphold the basic human rights of LGBTQ people and to protect them against abuses such as violence and discrimination has been acknowledged. Evidently, the matter has always been on the table and can no longer be considered as a privileged issue associated with advanced democracies but now needs to be discussed throughout the world.

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Evolution of sexuality as a concept

The significance of LGBTQ rights in the sphere of International Relations has always been met with an abrasive animadversion which can be attributed to the fact that sexuality as a concept has always been considered as a private affair that has relegated it outside the sphere of global politics. As Mark Blasius pointed out,

“viewed in the light of liberalism, sexuality has usually been perceived beyond the scope of state action in a domain of “privacy”. The focus of LGBT/queer study on the “politics of sexuality” has illustrated how sexual relations are one of the many dimensions through which power relations function and, as such a dimension that ensnares both practical concerns of the public interest seemingly embodied in “the state” and the analytical concerns which are vested in political science, which has conventionally also focused on power relations in “civil society”. Through this challenge to the limits of liberal conceptions of the political, LGBT/queer political study has expanded what politics is conceived to be for both the discipline of political science and the liberal theory. ”

The first attempt to broaden the traditional definition of sexuality to bring it under the purview of public domain and to stimulate research on its diverse expressions, was made by Magnus Hirschfield, founder of the Scientific Humanitarian Committee in Germany in the year 1897, which had ultimately met its end due to the rise of fascism .

Moving beyond a conventional definition of IR: Morphing of Sexuality and Gender into ‘Human Rights’

In the past few years years, a remarkable number of international as well as the transnational actors have contended that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights are covered under the broad umbrella of human rights . Major world leaders have started speaking extensively on this issue, questioning challenging the policies of a number of states which impose severe criminal penalties (including the death penalty) for individuals who engage in n0n-heterosexual behaviours. Landmark court cases have actively started referring to the principles of universal human rights and international law when making judgments against such discriminatory statutes which target LGBT individuals . The expansion of these rights has been a truly remarkable global phenomenon; same-sex marriage has now been legalized in countries across the globe.

And the visible political contestation that has emerged surrounding this issue has raised a number of intriguing questions. Foremost among these is how sexualities that were declared by the United States Supreme Court as an outrage to the Western values as recently as 1986 in Bowers v. Hardwick, have come to be enunciated in terms of fundamental and universal human rights. The Supreme Court of South Africa thus, argued that the people of this community experience “love that was once forced to be clandestine, but one may now dare openly to take its name within a society which has travelled a long way from rejecting the expressions of their desire to accepting the reality of their presence, and the integrity that lies in their intimate life” .

In this light, the recent unfolding of LGBT rights is only the beginning of a relentless march towards attainment of human freedom. In the words of the Kentucky Supreme Court opinion in the judgement of Kentucky v. Wasson (1992), Individuals tend to see themselves as the current in the stream of progress in the direction of obtainment of sexual rights. If we are to go by the constructivist writings on the issue of human rights, we might say that these steps are the beginning of a norm cascade which will ultimately result in the normalisation and realisation of sexual identities as protected categories within human rights norms.

Global Homophobia: States, Social movements and p0litics of 0ppressi0n

‘Global Homophobia’, the 2013 edited volume authored by Meredith Weiss and Michael Bosia delineates the point that the bitterness and resentment reserved against individuals of LGBTQ community is not just a direct product of the pre-existing cultural, heteronormative orientations, but are also largely politically charged. This is because political homophobia is factored in as purposeful, especially by the state actors; as implanted in the scapegoating of an “other” that have always been the driving forces of state building and retrenchment. And this has been a direct result of transnational alliances and influence peddling and also what has been left behind by the complicated legacies of colonialism. In this disposition, homophobia is views as an elite State strategy where a differential treatment of a minority is being used in order to construct a national image and to extract political support from the supposed “majority”.

In some States, sexuality is micromanaged through various agencies such as Singapore where homosexuality still remains illegal under Section 377A of the Penal Code which had been colonially inherited from Macauley’s Indian Penal Code. In this country, State has been exceedingly trying to curb the LGBTQ movement by not just law but also various other apparatuses and agencies by regulating, surveilling and repressing any kind of activism.

It has been largely evident that the study of homophobia and to some extent, transphobia is often neglected in hopes that the modernizing progress will help to uproot it, or in some cases, it is politically orchestrated (even by some of the LGBT advocates themselves) so as to falsely advocate assumptions of LGBT rights with (homo)nationalism as well as Islamophobia. Homophobia is therefore, overtly modular and transnational and is applied varyingly across the world with similar intentions, Pivotal for this scheme is the maintenance of a particular order in the society, entangled with sexuality and gender ever prepared for battle against the mythical foreign dangers known as “LGBT activists”, who have allegedly forced upon us, a social transformation and also, ended up limiting the regulatory power of the state by filling in as surrogates for the financial capital and international institutions. Thus, Homophobia and Transphobia still continue to be mobilised as powerful tools of statescraft .

Although, the queers are not always made into pawns by the power mongers as the relationship between the State and the gay movement in Netherlands has drastically changed after the advent of the sexual revolution where the timid homophiles of the 1950s have metamorphosised into proud homosexuals of the 70s, and identify themselves as a victorious minority which has made an immeasurable success.

Conclusion: Avenues that lie ahead

The work presented above has made it clear that it is need of the hour to interrogate more rigorously on the impact of LGBTQ issues in international politics. There exist multiple factors to consider in terms of future LGBT politics and research. Many hurdles still exist as far as attainment of sexual justice is concerned. The progress of LGBT advocacy politics is mainly limited to the West, and evokes a strong colonialist contention. And as far as political progress in Western countries is concerned, if fundamental rights such as gay and lesbian marriage and equality in adoption are achieved while the transgender groups still struggle to get access to workplace protection or health-care, can we really speak of true equality? And would it really prove to be a long-lasting empowerment if the ‘normalization’ and assimilation of non-traditional sexualities into our society, as well as the resulting co-option of LGBT advocacy groups leads to ultimately eroding a true alternative such as a critical queer model of socio-political diversity and coexistence?

And a more complex issue at hand, in the international sphere, is the backlashes that are caused as a result of the advancement of LGBT rights by countries that feel that there exists a neo- or ‘homo’-colonial interference from the minorities by Western governments. And an apprehension is created towards the intergovernmental organizations, which are now seen as an instrument of curtailment of their cultural and political sovereignty. This becomes especially apparent when Inter Governmental Organisations such as the UN, the World Bank and the EU or transnational NGOs, such as ILGA (the international lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex association), push for reforms in reticent countries while not realizing that they are playing a major role in accentuating the politicization of those minorities and as a result, being detrimental in the long run. And to counter this deleterious tendency, the advocacy groups have come to realise that by linking their collective identity strongly to the international human rights regime, they could evoke universally valid human rights considerations even under difficult domestic circumstances, and to appropriate such considerations for themselves as well. The tendency to universalise human experience by exclusively and completely relying on the West is highly detrimental for a truly global initiative for example questioning the universalist activist ‘desire for visibility’ which is a Western construct linked to the idea of politicisation of sexual identity but for activism in Asia or non-Western countries where soft identity politics exist, this may not always be the primary goal .

This attempt has been further nurtured by the debate surrounding intimate citizenship that aims to locate the concrete laws from sometimes-abstract notion of human rights for ensuring protection and safeguarding the rights of citizens.

This is nothing short of a wakeup call, emphasising on the need to find more nuanced and truly ‘glocal’ solutions to the complex global debate about sexual rights all across the world, keeping the specific domestic needs of every nation in mind. This could occur through the advocacy of privacy rights, separation of state from religion and the highlighting of democracy, rule of law and human right.

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LGBTQ Rights As Human Rights. (2022, July 08). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 14, 2024, from
“LGBTQ Rights As Human Rights.” Edubirdie, 08 Jul. 2022,
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