By Rocio Otoya
Sydney, Australia, Feb 24 (EFE).- The WorldPride 2023 can “save lives” because it helps break down prejudices against the LGBT+ community and reinforce the sense of belonging to a diverse and tolerant society, according to Anna Brown, activist and CEO of the NGO Equality Australia.
“Festivals such as these don’t just change lives, they actually save lives,” said Brown, who co-chaired Australia’s campaign for same-sex marriage, an acknowledgment that came true in 2017 after a referendum in which most 61 percent were in favor of its legalization.
WorldPride, a festival being held these days in Sydney, began in Rome in 2000 and has passed through cities such as Madrid (2017) and New York (2019). This year it’s happening in Australia, 11th in the ranking of American organization World Population Review on LGBT+ acceptance, a list headed by Iceland.
About 500,000 people, including some 80,000 visitors from across the country and abroad, are expected to attend the more than 300 WorldPride events, including a Friday concert with Australian singer and gay icon Kylie Minogue. There will also be a Mardi Gras parade Saturday and a massive march over the Sydney Bridge on Mar. 5, its closing day.
WordPride – with its rainbow colors, debates and drag queens – is “an incredible time” to “celebrate and share the beauty and diversity of who we are with the rest of Australia and the world and make sure we continue the journey towards equality and recognition of LGBT+ people,” Brown said.
The road to full recognition of the rights of LGBT+ in Australia – a country that criminalized homosexuality until the mid-1980s – continues to be uphill, despite measures such as the legalization of equal marriage and adoption by homosexual couples, among others.
One of Australia’s most urgent tasks is the ban on sexual conversion therapy, which became popular in the country in the 1970s and is on the rise among certain Christian groups that practice it in secret, especially in the New South Wales region.
“We need to make sure every person in Australia is protected from these practices that are very harmful and that tell LGBT+ people that they need to change because they have failed or have disorders,” said Brown, one of the authors of the report on these pseudo-therapies “Preventing harm, promoting justice” published in 2018.
Another of the pending tasks that Australia has is the elimination of any legal vestige of discrimination against the LGBT+ community in Australia, a country in which – according to a 2021 census – is 44 percent Christian, and where religious schools have exemptions to apply discriminatory policies against their students and teachers.
Brown said that in some regions of Australia there are laws that “prevent transgender people from accessing identity documents that reflect who they are without intrusive procedures such as surgery” or intersex people.
All these pending tasks delay the inclusion and respect of LGBT+ communities in Australia at all levels, from the family that pushes young people to leave their homes causing mental health problems ranging from anxiety to suicidal tendencies, as well as homelessness, even the labor and social spheres.
Many of the services young people facing issues with their sexuality or gender identity end up in Australia are religious organizations, where they can potentially face discrimination, Brown said, insisting that “there is still a lot of work to be done to create awareness”. EFE