It was in Paris, 65 years ago, on Dec. 10, 1948, that the president of the United Nations General Assembly, Herbert Vere Evatt, called for a vote on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Forty-eight nations voted in favor, eight abstained, but none dissented. Thus was adopted a simple, yet powerful declaration, which set out the basic principle of equality and non-discrimination:
“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.”
— Article 1 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Discrimination based on sexual orientation occurs on a regular basis around the world. In its worst form, it includes forms of violent persecution such as killings, rape, and torture. A quick Google search  can illustrate how the world stereotypes and discriminates against queer people. The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association’s world survey of laws on criminalization, protection, and recognition of same-sex love reports  that consensual same-sex relationships remain criminalized in some 78 countries. In at least five, the legally prescribed punishment for homosexual acts is death. Today’s fight for equality is as much about changing these discriminatory laws and practices as it is about reshaping the hearts and minds of people around the world.
As youth, it is incumbent upon us to work for a world where all people can enjoy their rights fully. The generations before us did not grow up talking about lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) issues. Let’s not repeat their mistakes. Being LGBT is a human reality — all around the world. Like racism and misogyny, homophobia is a prejudice born out of ignorance. Having a different cultural and religious perspective — personally or even societally — does not justify violation of human rights.
Let’s stand on the right side of history.
Human Rights Day, observed every Dec. 10, aims to bring attention to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as the common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations. The annual tradition, first conceived in 1950, commemorates historic advances in the promotion and protection of human rights, including on torture, freedom of expression, women’s rights, and religious rights. Although a number of important achievements have been accomplished in the last two decades, there is still a lot of work to be done.
Human rights are for everyone.
This Human Rights Day, let’s remember those youth who have died untimely deaths for being who they are and for whom they love. Let’s remember those youth who were driven to suicide out of distress, shame, or despair. Let’s remember those brave activists who have given their lives for this cause. We may never know their names, but they have given us the courage and inspiration — and the choice — to act.
Learn more on LGBT issues:
- Human Rights Watch – Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights 
- Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) – Combatting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity 
- International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) – Website