The International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO) was marked in more than 50 countries yesterday, May 17th 2009.

IDAHO seeks to raise awareness of gay and lesbian issues, celebrate sexual and gender diversity, and bring an end to homophobia around the world. The theme this year was ‘homosexuality knows no borders’.

IDAHO occurs every year on May 17th because on this date in 1990 the World Health Organisation removed homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses.

Events were held around the world including in Sydney where Community Action Against Homophobia (CAAH) held a rally aptly beneath the ‘I have a dream’ mural in Newtown. The main aims of the rally were to call for the legalisation of same sex marriage in Australia, highlight the need to tackle transphobia and continue working towards an end to homophobia globally.

The rally was opened by Freedom Fighters with lead singer Conor Montgomery performing a cover of John Lennon’s “Imagine” and closing the rally with Tracy Chapman’s “Talking ‘bout a Revolution”. A range of speakers came together to speak out against homophobia and discrimination against gays and lesbians. People called upon the Australian government to legalise same sex marriage and governments around the world to decriminalise homosexuality.

Eighty-six member states of the United Nations still criminalise homosexuality. Among these states, at least five have legal provisions with the death penalty as punishment.

To raise awareness for the plight of gay and lesbian refugees all over the world, Ben Cooper, a CAAH activist, completed a four-day hunger strike in 2008. He was motivated to do this by the tragic story of a 14-year-old boy and his 16-year-old boyfriend in Iraq. The police arrested them, charged them both and seven months later, publicly hanged them. Their corpses were hung in the street to remind people homosexuality is an abomination.

In many countries homophobia is a part of everyday life, even in Sydney Australia, the home of Mardi Gras. This is why events such as IDAHO are important to raise awareness of these issues and combat this discrimination.

Conor Montgomery told PinkNews.co.uk: “It is important to stand up and speak out here in Sydney to put pressure on countries where homosexuality is illegal. We must show solidarity with people around the world as it is an international day.”

Emma Cullingford is PinkNews.co.uk’s Australia Correspondent