Today is IDAHO Day. For the uninitiated, this stands for International Day Against Homophobia (not to be confused with a holiday in the 43rd State of the Union). On this day in 1990, the World Health Organisation removed homosexuality from the International Classification of Diseases. No longer were gay people officially categorised as sick and mentally disordered. IDAHO Day was conceived by the French academic and human rights activist, Louis-Georges Tin, with the aim to raise awareness about the plight of sexual minorities across the globe who live in daily fear of casual discrimination, systematic violence and state-sponsored murder. Some of us are fortunate to live in societies where attitudes have changed radically and where we are protected by a comprehensive body of law. Most are not so fortunate. This does not mean that mindless, sometimes violent, homophobia is no longer with us. Far from it. We must always be on our guard against the knee-jerkers and pond life who mean to do us harm. And we still have a long way to go to effectively eradicate transphobia. But, spare a thought for the brave souls in other lands whose very existence is a crime, where silence and denial are the only instruments of survival. Earlier this week, I had the honour to interview Eric Gitari, a human rights lawyer and activist in Kenya, on Future Radio’s Pride Live Show. Eric is helping to co-ordinate IDAHO Day in his own country and campaigns to abolish the draconian laws inherited from the British Raj. Believe me, his work is no walk in the park but Eric refuses to be silent. Today, ordinary people in many corners of the world will mark IDAHO Day publicly. However, some will do so in private and who can blame them? To be lynched from an olive tree or burned to death by a tyre necklace is nobody’s idea of a gay old time.
PS: The Kenyan Police banned the IDAHO march in Nairobi minutes before it was due to set off. No surprises then.