News / Asia

UN Ramps Up 'Free & Equal' LGBT Campaign

U.N. Human Rights Office (OHCHR) Bollywood-style music video to promote UN Free and Equal campaign raising awareness about homophobia and encouraging greater respect for rights of lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender (LGBT) people. (OHCHR and its partn
U.N. Human Rights Office (OHCHR) Bollywood-style music video to promote UN Free and Equal campaign raising awareness about homophobia and encouraging greater respect for rights of lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender (LGBT) people. (OHCHR and its partn
Margaret Besheer
— The United Nations is using a new Bollywood-style video to ramp up its “Free and Equal” Campaign to advance the rights of, and end discrimination against, homosexuals and transgender persons. The colorful video is intended to help get a conversation going about global gay rights.

“It’s a new look. It’s a new attitude,” sings Bollywood star Celina Jaitly as she gyrates to the tune of a 1979 Hindi hit remade for the 21st century.

The former Miss India and Bollywood star has brought her fame and commitment to gay rights to the U.N. campaign launched in July.

The two-and-a-half-minute video that debuted last week in Mumbai is meant to challenge stereotypes.

An Indian family is preparing a party for their returning son, but when he arrives with a man on his arm and not a potential bride, shock spreads across their faces.

But dismay turns to approval as the song speaks of acceptance and Jaitly sings, “you are always welcome in my home.” At this, the grandmotherly matriarch of the family embraces her grandson and his partner, and the family dances together in an expression of unity, love and acceptance.

Actress and LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender) activist Celina Jaitly told reporters Monday that changing attitudes often begins with difficult conversations.

“My message with this video is this: that changing of attitudes while fighting discrimination does not just begin with changing laws and policies, you also need to make a change of hearts and minds,” she said.

LGBT rights have come under attack in several countries this year.

In Uganda, where homosexuality already was illegal, the president signed into law a new bill toughening penalties against gays and making some homosexual acts crimes punishable by life in prison.

In Nigeria, the president approved a bill outlawing same-sex unions and imposing a 14-year prison term for anyone who enters one, and a 10-year jail sentence for individuals helping such a union to take place.  

And in Celina Jaitly’s native India, the Supreme Court re-criminalized consensual same-sex relationships after having decriminalized them in 2009.

Jaitly, the mother of twin two-year-old boys, has been an active campaigner for LGBT rights for a decade. She said being in the entertainment industry, she has worked with many people from the gay community and seen the hardships they endure.

“For me I do not want my posterity, my children, to grow up in an environment where people are judged based on their sexual orientation," she said. "I want my sons to grow up in a world where people are judged on the content of their character.”

She said she hopes the universal language of music will help get that message out.

The video, called “The Welcome,” has received an overwhelmingly positive response on social media since it was released last week. Nearly 150,000 people from around the world have watched it on YouTube and shared it on social media platforms.
 

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