An audience of over 100 witnessed the official launch of the UK’s International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO) campaign in the auditorium of Amnesty International Human Rights Centre last Friday evening.

Louis-Georges Tin, founder of IDAHO, explained how the campaign which started last year had spread to over 40 countries.

He added that one of the campaign’s political aims was for IDAHO to gain official recognition at the United Nations. In addition to the countries involved last year there were now IDAHO correspondents in Nigeria, Cameroon, Guyana, Turkey, Uganda and Namibia.

IDAHO had already established strong links with the Coalition of African Lesbians and the All African Rights Initiative. The meeting was also addressed by a leading member of the Blue Diamond Society, the organisation for sexual minorities in Nepal who explained the increasingly dangerous situation faced by the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in that country.

Several speakers also addressed problems faced by LGBT communities in Central and Eastern Europe: in a passionate speech, MEP Michael Cashman argued that the founding principles of the European Union must be maintained to ensure that the human rights of LGBT communities were observed, Evan Harris MP highlighted the threat of the growth of religious fundamentalism, Nigel Warner from the board of ILGA-Europe observed that where activists had intervened, Prides in several countries had been saved, and Jean Lambert Green MEP highlighted the centrality of basic human rights.

The meeting also heard from Matthew Davis who gave a graphic account of the appalling treatment of LGBT asylum seekers.

A message of support from the Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone was also read out to the meeting. London’s Mayor noted that the second IDAHO “is a timely opportunity to acknowledge the lesbian and gay community’s ongoing struggle for human rights and legal equality”.

He concluded “I give my commitment to work with you to ensure that London remains a leading city for lesbian and gay equality”.

The meeting also heard about IDAHO activities which had been arranged for May 17th in London, Brighton, Manchester, Canterbury, Oxford, Bolton and Leicester. UK IDAHO Co-ordinator Derek Lennard said, it is astonishing that with no budget and no dedicated staff, we have managed to organise a meeting of this size, and enabled events to be organised in these places. IDAHO is a grass roots International network, and it is up to local organisations and individuals to decide if they want to put on events and participate in the campaign, added

Mr Lennard.

Several people had expressed concerns about homophobic attacks on Clapham Common, and it is hoped that local campaigners will come together to address this issue.

Following this highly successful launch, the priority for IDAHO-UK is now to maximise the number and quality of events on 17 May 2006 and to arrange a minute’s silence at 8pm on the evening in unison with many other countries, such as Peru and the Ivory Coast.

Campaigners are also hoping for support from the gay community in backing Early Day Motion 1958 in support of the work of IDAHO introduced by Liberal Democrat MP, Stephen Williams.