Archive for August, 2012

Zimbabwe’s Assault on LGBTI Group Indicative of Larger, Worrisome Trend

The following blog post by RFK Partners for Human Rights Advocacy Officer Jeffrey Smith appeared yesterday in the Huffington Post:

With a constitutional referendum and historic elections looming in Zimbabwe, one might assume that those in power would seek to burnish their deficient democratic credentials. Instead, the Government of National Unity (GNU), largely dominated by President Robert Mugabe and his Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), has doubled down, intensifying their assault on human rights defenders and civil society writ large.

The widespread crackdown comes as no surprise to those who have followed the plight of Zimbabwe. President Mugabe and ZANU-PF have routinely resorted to thuggish violence and intimidation during the run-up to national political events, particularly since 2000. It was during this period that the newly-formed Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), led by trade unionist and current Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, rallied voters to reject a state-sponsored constitution, handing Mugabe his first electoral defeat since he came to power in 1980.

Mugabe responded with vengeance, enacting a range of repressive pieces of legislation, including the Private Voluntary Organization (PVO) Act, which imposes onerous funding and registration restrictions on nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). When existing legislation has failed to deter legitimate democratic activity, the Zimbabwe Republic Police Force (ZRP) has enthusiastically stepped to the fore, crushing dissent with impunity. Those who are critical of the status quo or dare question Mugabe’s dictatorial directives are branded “enemies of the state” and “agents of regime change,” thereby legitimizing the brutal tactics employed by the ZRP. A frequent target of this ire has been Zimbabwe’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Intersex (LGBTI) community. Continue Reading

What to Expect From Romney

What to Expect From RomneyThe Council for Global Equality has urged elected representatives and their staff from both major political parties to stand against LGBT human rights abuse and support LGBT-fair policies around the world.  With the Republican Party now poised to nominate its presidential candidate, we address that appeal to Governor Romney.

Over the past four years, President Obama and his Administration have offered unprecedented support for LGBT human rights abroad:

  • The President has spoken out forcefully against anti-gay legislation pending in Uganda; his Administration has registered U.S. concerns about anti-LGBT discrimination and actions in countries ranging from Senegal, Cameroon, and Malawi to Lithuania, Honduras and Iraq.
  • The State Department’s annual human rights reports now give equal attention to the difficulties faced by LGBT people in every corner of the world.
  • New funding streams have been opened to support LGBT civil society organizations in troubled areas of the world.
  • The plight of LGBT refugees is being addressed.
  • Transgender Americans now can amend passport gender markers with greater dignity, while passport and birth report forms to be filed by gay and lesbian parents have been made more inclusive.
  • Secretary Clinton has spoken directly before an important human rights body about the need for the international community to address the issue of LGBT fairness more squarely.
  • And President Obama has directed all foreign affairs agencies to ensure that LGBT populations are integrated, where appropriate, into our foreign assistance programs and policies.

Through these actions, the Obama Administration has reaffirmed that no minority, in any country, is immune from international standards of human rights protections, and that America will stand for fairness for all people, including LGBT populations, as part of its foreign policy.  In doing so, it has drawn from America’s principles of equality, fairness, and justice – principles that are part of our national conscience and discourse.

We’ve heard little from Governor Romney about human rights – or, indeed, about how he would approach the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people within his prospective human rights policy.  We hope he will speak to these issues in the remaining course of his campaign, and that he will show leadership in ensuring that defending LGBT human and civil rights is a point of national unity, not one of political division.

Uganda: Growing Intimidation, Threats to Civil Society

HRW report Curtailing Criticism: Intimidation and Obstruction of Civil Society in Uganda(Nairobi, August 21, 2012) – Research and advocacy organizations in Uganda that deal with controversial topics are facing increasing harassment by Uganda’s government, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. Groups have recently faced forced closure of meetings, threats, harassment, arrest, and punitive bureaucratic interference. The Ugandan government should end its hostile rhetoric and repeated obstructions of nongovernmental organizations, Human Rights Watch said.

The 50-page report, “Curtailing Criticism: Intimidation and Obstruction of Civil Society in Uganda,” documents increasing government attacks on organizations whose focus includes oil revenue transparency, land acquisition compensation, legal and governance reform, and protection of human rights, particularly the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. Both government ministers and district-level officials have engaged in obstruction, Human Rights Watch said. Continue reading ‘Uganda: Growing Intimidation, Threats to Civil Society’

Madonna defends the Gay community during her St. Petersburg Concert

Audience at Madonna's St. Petersburg concert 2012Repost from Polina Savchenko of Coming Out
The Pop Star and Gay Icon Madonna who recently held a tribute for Pussy Riot, the feminist punk band, in Moscow, took a step to support the LGBT Community yesterday in Saint Petersburg. The LGBT community is indeed victim of a new homophobic law which prohibits all kind of public demonstrations or publications related to homosexuality, bisexuality or transgenderness. 

As promised, Madonna delivered a moving speech between Open Your Heart and Masterpiece in which she praised democracy, love and freedom and compared the LGBT fights to Martin Luther King’s fights for equality. She added that gay people should be treated with love and dignity and that it was not right to use religion to promote hate to a certain group

LGBT organization Coming Out, printed 330 rainbow posters with the saying “No Fear” that were distributed to the crowd. Although some posters were confiscated by security, their display had a huge emotional effect during the show. Many fans raised them during Madonna’s speech, and she reacted by saying “No Fear, that’s right” before insisting that fear was the basis of all discrimination, and that tolerance could only be guaranteed by love, the opposite of fear. During the performance of “Like A Prayer”, while dancers were raising a rainbow flag provided by a member of Coming Out and the Russian LGBT Network, Madonna took a “No Fear” poster from the crowd and raised it for 25,000 people to see. Same as for “Pussy Riot” support in Moscow, she had tattooed her back, this time with “No Fear.” Gay bashing scenes from gay demonstrations in Russia, pictures of teenagers who died because of homophobia, and many gay and lesbian kisses were shown during the very political “Nobody Knows Me” Interlude Video.

Madonna’s support was extremely moving. Most of the mostly heterosexual crowd reacted positively to her message by raising pink wristbands that were distributed to everyone to support the LGBT community. The LGBT in the audience received Madonna’s support with both smiles and tears, and gratified her with the universal message “We love you” at the end of the show.

Author of the “propaganda” law in St. Petersburg, Vitaly Milonov today declared that Madonna broke the law and is planning to charge her with a fine of 500,000 rubles ($17 000). 

Protection Concerns and Vulnerabilities for LGBT Iraqis

Protection Concerns and Vulnerabilities for LGBT IraqisBlog Posting Written by: Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project, July 2012

In March of 2012, U.S. and international media outlets reported a renewed wave of violence against LGBT individuals inside Iraq. Since that time, the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) has conducted nearly 50 interviews (and counting) with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Iraqis who fear persecution and/or face serious protection concerns inside Iraq because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. About 45 interviewees identify as gay males and two are transgender persons, assigned female but identifying as male.

The Current Situation on the Ground for Gay Iraqi Men:

Protection concerns and vulnerabilities vary within the gay Iraqi community depending on whether the man is able to, or chooses to, hide any outward manifestation of his sexual orientation. Those that suppress any outward manifestation of their sexuality do not face immediate physical danger. Most are able to maintain jobs and leave their homes without facing serious protection concerns, but cite the psychological aspects of hiding a huge part of their identity as unbearable, and suffer from depression and suicidal thoughts. Additionally, all fear being “outed” and discovered by their families who may become suspicious of their sexual orientation because the men have never been married, or have been married but are now divorced.

Those whose sexual orientation is either known to their families or the general public face severe outward, physical harm, in addition to severe psychological trauma. A small number of the men interviewed were put under house arrest by family members after their sexual identity became known. This often includes severe beatings and intense pressure to marry in order to cover up any scandal. Other men were beaten by family members, mostly fathers and brothers, but then immediately kicked out of their homes with nowhere to go. This forced them to live house-to-house, depending on sympathetic family members or friends. Even those with relatively safe housing do not leave their homes, unless it is absolutely necessary, out of fear of being harassed, found by family members wanting to harm them or picked up by police or security forces. A large number of men have been subjected to severe sexual violence, including rape, from family members, police, security forces, and members of the larger community. Many also reported physical violence at the hands of these perpetrators, and, to a lesser extent, militant groups like Jeash Al-Mahdi or Al-Haqq. Like those who have not been “outed,” a disturbing number of gay men, with whom IRAP spoke, wished they were dead, could change their sexual orientation or be “normal.” Continue reading ‘Protection Concerns and Vulnerabilities for LGBT Iraqis’

Sec. Clinton’s Remarks at Presentation of Human Rights Defenders Award

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton poses for a photo with recipients of the U.S. State Department’s 2011 Human Rights Defender Award including Adrian Jjuuko, Geoffrey Ogwaro, Julius Kaggwa, Joanita Warry Nambirige, Clare Byarugaba, Frank Mugisha, and Hassan Shire Sheikh in Kampala, Uganda on August 3, 2012. [State Department photo]

Remarks Hillary Rodham Clinton Secretary of State
U.S. Embassy Kampala, Uganda
August 3, 2012

Thank you so much. Well, I am very pleased to be here once again in Kampala and to have the opportunity to present the State Department’s 2011 Human Rights Defenders Award to not just one person, but to a coalition of groups that are standing up for human rights and setting an example for how civil society can work together in common cause.

Now I know our meeting has been months in the making, but I am so delighted to be here in person to meet each of you – some of you I’ve met before, but not all of you – and to put everybody’s face and name and organization together.

Since I became Secretary, we have worked to elevate the role of civil society, and especially groups that promote human rights. And so we want to be your partners as well to help bend the arc of history toward justice and to help more people lead lives of dignity and opportunity. The work you are doing is helping to make human rights a human reality. You are tearing down barriers that prevent people from enjoying the full measure of liberty, the full experience of dignity, the full benefits of humanity. And this coalition shows what can happen when brave change-makers come together.

I’ve said before it is critical for all Ugandans – the government and citizens alike – to speak out against discrimination, harassment, and intimidation of anyone. That’s true no matter where they come from, what they believe, or whom they love. And no one has been a stronger champion than all of you. You’ve been organized, disciplined, and savvy. You have marshaled the evidence and made the arguments using the rights enshrined in Uganda’s constitution and in international law. And by doing so, you are a model for others and an inspiration to the world.

I’m well aware that you do your work often amidst difficult, even dangerous circumstances. I know that some of your lives have been threatened, your friends and families intimidated. But I want you to know that the United States is and will be your partner. I raised these issues with President Museveni today, because this isn’t just about carving out special privileges for any one group; this is about making sure universal rights are protected for all people. A violation of anyone’s rights is a violation of everyone’s rights.

Standing up for human rights is not always popular, but it is always honorable. And I am delighted to present you with this award to celebrate the work of this coalition to defend the human rights of all Ugandans.

Let me come over here, and we’ll have a picture. (Applause.)

Related: Winners of the Human Rights Defenders Award


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