Tiny war-torn island holds first Pride parade as Prime Minister comes out in support of LGBT rights
A tiny war-torn island in Asia has taken two huge steps forward in promoting LGBT rights.
East Timor, which only declared its independence in 2002 after a traumatic, deadly struggle, held its first Pride parade last week.
The celebration in the capital of Dili was attended by several hundred people, according to The Associated Press.
But that wasn’t enough for the tiny island nation of 1.2 million people, which lies north of Australia and south of Indonesia.
In the same week, Prime Minister Rui Maria de Araujo called on his citizens to accept differences and even to celebrate them.
In a speech posted online, he said: “Discrimination, disrespect and abuse towards people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity does not provide any benefit to our nation.”
Allowing everyone in the country to contribute to its development would “make the most of the independence we all fought for.”
The leader said that his country was “known in the region and internationally as a nation which promotes and protects human rights.
“However, many people will suffer discrimination.”
He warned that “violence and discrimination may affect the future of the country’s physical and mental health.”
In a developed country, he said, “all children need to live in an environment which provides protection, love, and the opportunity to develop themselves, regardless of their differences.
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“Parents need to receive their children, and schools need to create conditions which can protect all students.
“As Prime Minister, I ask you to accept each other, to see each other and have mutual respect.
“God teaches us to love one another. The principles of democratic nations hold that we are born free with dignity and respect for one another.”
More than 200,000 people died during the Indonesian occupation of the country, which lasted for a quarter of a century.
Even after the East Timorese voted for independence in 1999, anti-independence militia subjected the island to death and destruction.