By GBENGA OGUNDARE
MARCH 1, 2016, people from all corners of the world will mark the UN Zero Discrimination Day, making it possible for the world to celebrate diversity and reject discrimination in all its forms.
Human rights campaigners like to agree that social exclusion and discrimination are leading drivers of bad governance all around the world, especially in developing societies like Africa, as well as authoritarian regimes such as Iran where the state has refused to allow women watch an international volleyball tournament live.
Women, children and persons with disabilities all over the world, expectedly, have been the worst affected by this human rights breach. But the support garnered for Zero Discrimination Day has created a global movement of solidarity to end discrimination, which remains widespread.
The UNAIDS says that millions of women and girls in every region of the world, including Nigeria, experience violence and abuse and are unable to exercise their rights or gain access to health-care services, education or employment.
“Discrimination at work, school and health-care and other settings reduces people’s ability to participate fully and meaningfully in societies and provide and care for themselves and their families.”
Globally, there are almost 80 countries that still have laws criminalizing same-sex sexual relations, and that includes Nigeria. Some 38 countries, territories and areas impose some form of restriction on the entry, stay and residence of people living with HIV. And worse still, legal and social environments are still failing to address stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV and those most vulnerable to HIV infection.
“Discrimination is a violation of human rights and must not go unchallenged,” said United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. “Everyone has the right to live with respect and dignity.”
As in last year, the 2016 Zero Discrimination Day will also be marked with people opening Up, reaching Out and using social media platforms to share their views of what zero discrimination means to them.
Already, people have shared songs, poems, thoughts and activities inspired by the butterfly, the transformative symbol of the campaign. People are also calling on their governments to make greater efforts to realize and protect human rights and eliminate discrimination.
“Some of the world’s most challenging problems can be solved simply by eliminating stigma and discrimination,” said Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS. “As we collectively strive for a fairer world we can be encouraged by the enthusiasm for achieving zero discrimination.”
Among celebrities supporting the campaign are UNAIDS International Goodwill Ambassador David Luiz, who posted a special message on standing up to racism, UNAIDS Goodwill Ambassador Toumani Diabaté and his son, Sidiki Diabaté, as well as the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 Ambassador and Sri Lankan cricketing star, Kumar Sangakkara.
Governments, lawmakers and business leaders have also pledged their support to the campaign.
Events to mark Zero Discrimination Day include photo exhibitions in China, dancing in Gabon, concerts in Madagascar, a storytelling event for children in Mongolia and special film screenings in Nepal. Seminars and workshops to discuss issues relating to stigma and discrimination will take place in more than 20 countries worldwide, from Colombia to Uzbekistan.