Governments, organisations and individuals around the world have been marking this year’s International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia today.

IDAHO falls on 17 May each year on the anniversary of the World Health Organisation’s decision decategorise homosexuality as a mental disorder.

The organisation points out that 1.5 billion people globally still live under regimes which criminalise gay relationships.

Rainbow balloons are being released today in Russia, Estonia, Ukraine, Germany and Iran, IDAHO organisers said.

Last year, events taking a stand against homophobia were held in seventy countries. This year, IDAHO coordinators say activists in 95 countries around the world have planned some form of event.

Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone said: “Today is an opportunity to celebrate how much progress has been made in changing attitudes towards LGB&T people.

“In the UK, we are continuing to remove barriers and tackle prejudice – by toughening hate crime laws, campaigning to eradicate homophobia and transphobia in sport, supporting action against bullying in schools, and through our current consultation on how to implement equal civil marriage.

“However, today it is also important to reflect on the challenges we still face, at home and abroad. We are continuing to drive change across government through our LGB&T action plan as well as pushing for more action from partners overseas.”

Location-sensitive networking app Grindr said it was sending a message to its global user database asking them to add the word IDAHO to their profile.

Jessica Stern, Acting Executive Director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission said it was marking three key advances in South America.

The Commission wanted to mark to Argentina’s “ground-breaking” new law on gender identity, the Inter-American Court’s decision to overturn a Chilean court decision which removed Karen Atala’s children from her because she was gay and Chile’s advances on hate crime legislation, spurred on by the murder of young gay man Daniel Zamudio.

The Australian Capital Territory’s Deputy Chief Minister and Sports Minister, Andrew Barr announced the creation of a two-year programme to tackle homophobia in sporting clubs.

In the UK, local councils around the country were hoisting rainbow flags. Energy company E.ON, which employs 85,000 globally, was displaying them at five offices in the Midlands. Manchester Airport was welcoming guests to the UK with the multi-coloured standard, and Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust said it would be flying the rainbow flag at its headquarters in Norwich as a show of solidarity with those suffering homophobic abuse.

Akoro Joseph Sewedo- Executive Director of The Initiative for Equal Rights in Lagos, Nigeria said: “It is quite depressing that secular states in this century will still base governance on religion rather than the constitution, which supersedes and emphasizes the secularity of modern state and their obligations to protect and promote human rights regardless of sex, age, creed, tribe and other status [sexual orientation and gender identity/expression] as stated in the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights”.

The Gay and Lesbian Equality Network in Ireland met with the Oireachtas Committee on Justice and Equality and called for access to civil marriage for gay couples.

Kieran Rose, GLEN Chair said: “Ireland has made significant progress in tackling the legacy of discrimination towards LGBT people. In 1993 we achieved decriminalisation of gay men based on equality, followed by powerful equality legislation, comprehensive civil partnership based on marriage, and now progress towards civil marriage. Civil marriage, building on the comprehensive civil partnership legislation, is the next incremental step in achieving equality.”

British Foreign Office Minister Jeremy Browne and International Development Minister Stephen O’Brien said: “It is sadly the case that in many countries Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people continue to suffer brutal violence and discrimination. These people are not making a political statement, or asking for special treatment, they just want to be free to be who they are and to love who they choose.

“These simple demands are not Western impositions but universal human rights we should all be able to take for granted. Yet in over 70 countries consensual same-sex relations continue to be criminalised. In some, sexual relations between consenting adults are a crime punishable by the death penalty. We strongly oppose any criminalisation of same-sex relations.”

For more information on the events taking place around the world to mark IDAHO today, visit the dayagainsthomophobia.org website.