Monday, June 10, 2013

New Symbol in Geneva Makes Pro-Gay Statement

Only when we start to acknowledge injustice can we really eradicate it. Reflecting a hate-crime committed 447 years ago, today the City of Geneva uses a cold moment in history to set a profound symbol for the future. The placement of an engraved plaque in the city’s center near Bel-Air - with the endorsement of the Geneva mayor Sandrine Salerno and the undertaking of NETWORK, an organization of gay leaders - is set to serve as a living memory of hope. Hope against hate.

The story taking place today is one that dates back to June 10, 1566. That’s when Bartholomé Tecia, a 15-year-old student, was sentenced to be drowned in the Rhone River after being convicted of homosexuality. By commemorating his wrongful death through a plaque in the City of Geneva, representatives of the group NETWORK say Geneva is making an international statement towards the universal understanding for human rights.   

“When someone passing by sees this plaque, it will signal the symbol behind Bartholomé Tecia. A message lives on. It is a witness to how history sets a vision for us, as we make sense of the upbringing, culture, society and lifestyles of that time,” said Dominique Rachex of NETWORK Geneva in a press release.

Likewise, it also makes one think of the number of LGBT people locally and across the world that still encounter prejudice and discrimination. The tragedy of Bartholomé is certainly not a unique case of hate. There are records of 31 others, who from 1444 to 1662, were also sentenced to death because of their homosexuality. And, in recent times, from anti-gay legislation in Uganda to the recent homophobic killing of 32-year-old Mark Carson in New York, the symbol of Bartholomé is more relevant than ever.

With June bringing celebrations of pride, the new plaque in Geneva is a strong presence in the right direction that all Swiss can be proud of.  

“We are very proud to have contributed to the creation of a place of remembrance and hope,” said Oliver Fritz, President of NETWORK Switzerland in a press release. “It’s a witness to the time we are living in and to the kind of discrimination we hope will soon be obsolete.”