May 17 to boost free expression, even in 6 anti-gay nations

IDAHOT 2014 poster. (Click on the image for link to the IDAHOT website)
IDAHOT 2014 poster. (Click on the image for link to the IDAHOT website)

In the face of repression, events celebrating this year’s May 17 International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT) are planned for at least six of the 82 countries where homosexuality is not legal.  As people in many other countries celebrate diversity and the right to free expression, remember how difficult it is for many LGBTI people in  nations where persecution — or prosecution — is often the norm.
Courageous activists in these six nations — Botswana, Burundi, Cameroon, Egypt, Myanmar and Sri Lanka — deserve warm compliments for daring to organize events despite difficult circumstances.
This year will mark the 10th celebration of the International Day Against Homophobia and [since 2009] Transphobia.  The theme for May 17, 2014, will be “Free Expression” in a celebration of sexual and gender diversities worldwide.  IDAHOT commemorates the day, 24 years ago on May 17, 1990, when the World Health Organisation removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders.  For information about many of the hundreds of events planned worldwide, visit the official website for IDAHOT.
Planned celebrations range from flashmobs to concerts by lesbian choirs, from political action to discussion groups. They will take place in countries stretching from Fiji to Botswana, from Cyprus to South Korea.
The following information comes from the official IDAHOT website, with some editing.  For security reasons,  some details such as locations are omitted. People in those countries should contact local LGBTI groups for details.
idahot official 2014 image
Campaign and forum coming in Sri Lanka
Sri lanka idahot 2014Equal Ground, a notable LGBTIQ organisation in Sri Lanka, will be hosting a campaign for the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia which will consist of a discussion forum and a documentary video.
LGBT groups will report on homophobia in Burundi
Burundi idahot 2014In Burundi, LGBT groups will be presenting their annual report on the state of Homophobia in the country’s only LGBT center in the capital city of Bujumbura. Community meetings will be held in rural towns, where public events are unthinkable in the context of exploding homophobia in the region.
Cameroon activists to meet with political and religious leaders
cameroon idahot 2014Activists will organize meetings with religious and political leaders to discuss homosexuality. An exhibition on human rights violations against LGBT people will be displayed. A special training session on media and legal affairs will be held for lesbians in order to empower them more within the LGBT community. The day will close with a long-awaited community evening.
IDAHOT week’s events in Egypt will include sports, videos
Egypt-IdahoCampaignPosterLGBTI people, friends and allies will be celebrating with daily events over the whole week in various cities in Egypt. The events will include two major celebrations on May 11 and 17 in big cities. Events will include sports games and theatre. One of the days will be specifically dedicated to trans people. The organisers will also be starting an online campaign that will contain videos, cartoons, articles, and if time allows, even publishing a magazine on sexual health.
Upcoming in Botwana: a Queer Shorts Showcase

botswana idaho 2014The Queer Shorts Showcase is proposed to be an annual event on May 17th, and 2014 will mark the inaugural staging. The Showcase will feature 5 short productions by Katlego K Kol-Kes, artivist, writer and performer. An evening of theater that will express LGBT themes through various means. Kol-Kes will be joined by 3 other directors from Gaborone with the sole mission of addressing the 2014 IDAHO theme: Freedom of Expression.
The productions are all between 10 and 15 minutes long. These productions are: Under My Roof (Institutionalised Homophobia), Horses, Rivers, Mountains, Men (Discovery/Coming Out), Butchered (Romantic Drama), A Real Woman (Defining a Trans* reality), and Sakeng (Male Privilege and Responsibility).  With a company of 20, comprised of dancers and actors, the inaugural Queer Shorts Showcase promises to be an enlightening and entertaining evening of theater and activism.
Myanmar / Burma activists organise photo competition
myaanmar idahot 2014Activists in Myanmar /Burma are presenting an “& PROUD Myanmar LGBT photo competition” starting from March until May 2014. The winning shots will be announced during IDAHOT week.  & PROUD is an initiative of YG events and Colours Rainbow. YG is a social business with a gay heart. Colours Rainbow is an NGO working for LGBT rights at the centre of the LGBT community in Myanmar / Burma, hosting a network of LGBT organisations in the country.
The event is a competition that challenges photographers in Myanmar / Burma to increase the visibility of the LGBT community. The organizers aim to highlight positive images of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Myanmar / Burma by showcasing the portraits that can go beyond stereotypes and encouraging pictures which capture the diversity of Burmese LGBT communities.  The competition is open to amateur and professional photographers, regardless of their nationality, sexual orientation and gender identity, as long as the submitted photos depict LGBT people originated from Myanmar /Burma, and are taken in Myanmar /Burma.  For more information about the event, check the andproud  Facebook page or e-mail .

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Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at

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