Paul Edwards

Deputy Head of Mission

Guest blogger for UK in North Macedonia

Part of UK in North Macedonia

19th May 2016 Skopje, North Macedonia

Sporting Diversity

I was on Facebook yesterday evening and I saw something that shocked me. It was a post which said that the World Health Organisation only took homosexuality off the list of mental disorders in 1990.  I found it hard to believe that anyone over 25 years old has lived in a time when a global organisation labelled you as damaged if you weren’t heterosexual.

It was on 17th May, 1990 that the World Health Organisation corrected that injustice.

On 17 May 2005 after a year-long campaign, the first International Day against Homophobia (IDAHO) was marked by more than 20,000 people. Since then, that date has been marked in an increasing number of countries around the world, as well as by institutions including the United Nations and the European Parliament.  IDAHO is the most important date for defending the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people worldwide and celebrating their contribution to society.  It is now marked in over 130 countries.

Macedonia marked 17 May this year and that gave me the chance to show my support – on behalf of the UK.  I was encouraged to do so because the UK supports diversity in all its forms, and is ready to stand up and advocate for those not given the rights they deserve.

The 17th May is part of a bigger issue of diversity. LGBT people live on all continents and countries.  They are a part of all races, ethnicities, age groups, professions and religions.  They are simply part of the fabric of society just like everyone else.

The 17th May is also about equality. Fundamental human rights not given to people. They belong equally to all people by the very fact of being human. The defence of LGBTI rights is a core part of the  Foreign & Commonwealth Office does. We all have a role to play. It might range from working with governments to repeal discriminatory laws; taking action against homophobic hate speech and violence, or institutions to prosecute perpetrators for hate crimes against LGBTI people. Selective justice and impunity is never the answer – and we can all speak out when we see inequality.

I was proud to walk around Tetovo town centre on Tuesday with some new friends to support equal rights and diversity in Macedonia.  There were people there from all sections of society – young and old; straight and gay; local and international. We were all there with one simple purpose – to say publicly that we support and celebrate diversity in all its forms and are against any forms of discrimination based on sexuality.