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Zero Discrimination Day 2024

March 1, 2024

The Zero Discrimination Day is observed annually on 1 March and it was first celebrated by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) in 2014 and today marks its 10th anniversary. Sadly, discrimination has many forms, from racial or religious discrimination to discrimination based on gender, sexual orientation or age, and to bullying at school or at work and it continues to undermine efforts to achieve a more just and equitable world and causes pain and suffering for many.

Attacks on the rights of women and girls, of LGBTQ+ people, and of other marginalized communities are on the rise. And when laws, policies, practices or norms enshrine punishment, discrimination or stigma for people because they are women, or are LGBTQ+, or are migrants, or sex workers, or use drugs, the results lead to failing public health as these communities are pushed away from vital health and social services.

Hence, the theme for this year’s Zero Discrimination Day is ‘To protect everyone’s health, protect everyone’s rights’ and is highlighting the urgent need to remove laws which harm people’s rights and to bring in laws which uphold the rights of every person. The path that ends AIDS is a rights path. In many countries, laws result in people being treated differently, excluded from essential services or being subject to undue restrictions on how they live their lives, simply because of who they are, what they do or who they love. Such laws are discriminatory, they deny human rights and fundamental freedoms.

We, at the World Assembly of Youth (WAY), understand that discrimination is a violation of human rights and must be addressed with an extensive approach. We acknowledge that Zero Discrimination Day is an opportunity to celebrate everyone’s right and pride, especially young people, in order to assure a full and productive life for all without any forms of exclusion and segregation. In order to achieve zero discrimination, political, economic and social policies need to protect the rights of everyone and pay attention to the needs of disadvantaged and marginalised communities. We have a moral and legal obligation to advocate for the removal of discriminatory laws and enactment of laws that protect people from discrimination. Ending inequality for young people requires transformative change.

Everyone has a responsibility to hold states accountable, call for change and contribute to efforts to remove discriminatory laws. Greater efforts are needed to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger and there is a need to invest more in health, education, social protection, and decent jobs. Let us stand out! Embrace the diversity that exists around us, understand and accept people’s differences, open minds, respect, and support one another. Everyone can play a part in ending discrimination.

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