Home Page > News Item > PEN calls on Governments to protect LGBTI freedom of expression

In light of the increasing attacks on the freedom of expression of LGBTI individuals and activists through the introduction of restrictive legislation in countries around the world, the theme for the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO-T) on 17 May 2014 is freedom of expression.

On 17 May, PEN International, along with 170 free expression organisations, calls on all leaders in the world to ensure that all people can speak their minds without fearing violence or intimidation, no matter what their sexual orientation or gender identity.

We call on Heads of States to protect freedom of expression for all people.

Freedom of expression, online and offline, is a fundamental right that cannot be denied on the basis of a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. This is international law.

Too many people are silenced because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, or for speaking out on issues affecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. This is unacceptable.

We all have the right to information about sexual orientation and gender identity. This is essential to the exercise of all human rights for all people.

A free, independent and diverse media is crucial to inform the public and for giving LGBT voices the platform to speak out on issues that affect them. Through self-regulation, the media has a social and moral responsibility to play a role in combatting discrimination and promoting understanding between groups, as outlined in the Camden Principles on Freedom of Expression and Equality.

Every day, across the world, LGBT people and others speaking out to defend equality are attacked just for expressing their identities and views, for talking about sexual orientation or gender identity, or proudly marching in the streets to defend their rights.

Violence and intimidation are the ultimate form of censorship. Impunity for these abuses is rife.

States must make sure that human rights abuses that seek to silence LGBT people are investigated speedily, effectively and independently in compliance with international legal standards. Perpetrators and instigators must be brought to justice, and redress provided to survivors.

Public officials are under a duty to condemn these attacks.

A majority of the world’s population live in countries with laws that criminalise LGBT identities or ban sharing information and ideas about sexual orientation or gender identity. Homosexual acts are illegal in 81 countries and punishable by death in 10 countries.

The situation is getting worse. More States are considering or enacting laws that ban “propaganda of homosexuality” – saying anything positive about LGBT rights, joining a march or parade, or a support group or campaign group, can result in prosecution, imprisonment or worse.

This affects all of us. With laws restricting what we can or can’t say about sexual orientation and gender identity we all are worse off. It deprives all people of essential information, including in relation to accessing HIV prevention and treatment programmes. Public health practitioners, educators and human rights defenders are put in particular danger.

States must repeal all laws that discriminate against LGBT people, including by restricting what information they share or can access. 

We all have the right to express our identities and speak out about issues around sexual orientation and gender identities. Whether on the street, in an association or assembly, in school, university or online, we should be free to speak without fear of violence, intimidation or prosecution.

On IDAHO-T, you can take action by:

  • Follow #IDAHOTSpeakUp and #NoSilence to join the discussion about LGBT free speech online.
  • Join IDAHOT’s social media Thunderclap right now to add your support before IDAHOT on Sat 17 May!
  • Please read the UN and regional freedom of expression experts joint statement on this issue.