International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission Is Founded Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Through advocacy, documentation, coalition building, public education, and technical assistance, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission has worked to secure and protect the rights and safety of people across the world who are abused or discriminated against because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or HIV-AIDS status.

Summary of Event

Activists in the United States and the Soviet Union (now Russia) founded the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) in 1990, a nonprofit and nongovernmental organization (NGO). Julie Dorf, the commission’s cofounder and first executive director, conceived the idea for the commission while doing academic research in what was then the USSR. Dorf interviewed men imprisoned under the now-repealed Article 121, an antisodomy law in Russia that carried a penalty of five years in prison. [kw]International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission Is Founded (1990) [kw]Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission Is Founded, International (1990) [kw]Lesbian Human Rights Commission Is Founded, International Gay and (1990) [kw]Human Rights Commission Is Founded, International Gay and Lesbian (1990) [kw]Rights Commission Is Founded, International Gay and Lesbian Human (1990) [kw]Commission Is Founded, International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights (1990) International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, International Civil rights;worldwide Sodomy laws;worldwide [c]Organizations and institutions;1990: International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission Is Founded[1970] [c]Civil rights;1990: International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission Is Founded[1970] [c]Laws, acts, and legal history;1990: International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission Is Founded[1970] Dorf, Julie Kalinin, Roman

At the time of the founding of IGLHRC, the gay and lesbian rights movement in the former USSR was in its infancy. Roman Kalinin was a Russian activist who helped found the Moscow Union of Gays and Lesbians and who published Tema, the first gay and lesbian newspaper in the USSR. The KGB (the Soviet secret service) routinely harassed Kalinin, breaking into his house, stealing documents with the names of other gays and lesbians, interrogating him, and even informing his parents of his sexuality.

IGLHRC worked initially to repeal Article 121 (which was eventually abolished in 1993) and the antisodomy laws in twenty-five U.S. states and the District of Columbia. Addressing the violent threat experienced by gays and lesbians around the world would become the commission’s main focus. In 1991, IGLHRC organized the first-ever delegation to the USSR, complete with conferences, demonstrations, and a film festival. IGLHRC now works in places where support is lacking; therefore, it works outside the United States, Canada, and Western Europe as well. The commission works in partnership with groups around the world, including the Americas, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, to document human rights abuses and advocate for social change.

IGLHRC’s programs can be broken into three categories. The first is its “emergency response” program, which documents and responds to human rights violations on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, and HIV-AIDS status, and provides assistance to those seeking asylum. The second program covers “human rights education,” in which the commission trains and provides technical assistance to its international partners. The third program is called “linking human rights and social movements,” in which IGLHRC promotes the adoption and development of “sexual rights as human rights” frameworks in communities around the world. The IGLHRC presses government officials, international organizations, and the mainstream media to accept that sexual and gender identity rights are basic human rights.

Significance

The reach of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission is far and wide, as it intends. In addition to protecting lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender individuals, and those who are HIV-positive or who have AIDS, the commission helps to monitor abuse and discrimination against sexual minorities. The commission, for example, cosponsored the International Tribunal on Human Rights Violations Against Sexual Minorities, a group of international human rights experts who called on the United Nations (U.N.) to designate a special investigator to monitor human rights violations based on sexual and gender orientation.

IGLHRC also attended the U.N. Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, China, in 1995 to pressure organizers to address issues of concern to lesbian and bisexual women. By staging a direct action within the weeklong conference, the commission hoped to have “sexual orientation” mentioned in the government delegates’ 147-page Platform for Action, which spelled out the delegations’ priorities for women into the twenty-first century. Unfortunately, after an all-night deliberation session, the phrase did not make it into the document’s antidiscrimination clause. Nonetheless, IGLHRC’s continued pressure on the U.N. has been successful in other ways. In 2004, IGLHRC successfully lobbied the U.N. to hear arguments that sexual orientation is a human right that deserves protection.

IGLHRC works with other international human rights organizations as well. Some activists argue that it was IGLHRC’s pressure on Amnesty International (A.I.) that spurred A.I. to start addressing sexual and gender orientation as a human rights issue. Others point out that several regional A.I. offices had called for the inclusion of sexual minorities before IGLHRC had been formed. In either case, it is clear that IGLHRC has had a large impact on mainstream organizations and public institutions in highlighting human rights violations and pressuring these organizations and government officials to address and act on them.

In 1994, the administration of U.S. president Bill Clinton Clinton, Bill ordered that U.S. immigration laws allow foreigners persecuted abroad because of their sexuality to receive political asylum in the United States. Gay U.S. representative Barney Frank said he was acting on an appeal from IGLHRC when he requested the order.

Since its founding, IGLHRC has mobilized a worldwide network of activists, politicians, and citizens through e-mail alerts, press releases, and demonstrations. Among its achievements, the commission organized the first gay pride events in the USSR in 1991. The commission also publishes reports detailing human rights abuses around the world. IGLHRC is one of the few organizations taking part in a worldwide coalition to build solidarity and exchange advocacy strategies within international movements that fight against discrimination and abuse on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, and HIV-AIDS status. Overall, the IGLHRC has made huge inroads in the fight to secure the full enjoyment of the human rights of all people. International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, International Civil rights;worldwide Sodomy laws;worldwide

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission. http://www.iglhrc.org/.
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    International Tribunal on Human Rights Violations Against Sexual Minorities. San Francisco, Calif.: International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, 1995.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Ridinger, Robert. Speaking for Our Lives: Historic Speeches and Rhetoric for Gay and Lesbian Rights, 1892-2000. New York: Harrington Park Press, 2004.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Rosenbloom, Rachel, ed. Unspoken Rules: Sexual Orientation and Women’s Human Rights. San Francisco, Calif.: International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, 1995.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Stychin, Carl, and Didi Herman, eds. Law and Sexuality: The Global Arena. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2001.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Tuller, David, and Dan Levy. “The Movement Gains Strength: Gay Rights on a Worldwide Front.” San Francisco Chronicle, August 24, 1992, p. A1.

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October 9-12, 1998: First International Retreat for Lesbian and Gay Muslims Is Held

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