Archive for the 'Civil Liberties' Category

Reflecting UN Progress on Transgender Day of Remembrance

Transgender Day of RemembranceNovember 20, 2014 — Today, on Transgender Day of Remembrance, we remember brave transgender individuals around the world who have been killed because of who they are or how they appear in the world. It therefore seems fitting, on a day like today, to reflect on a draft resolution adopted yesterday by the United Nations that recognizes the sad reality that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals are too often targeted and killed because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

The UN resolution, which condemns “extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions” committed by both government and non-governmental agents, recognizes that certain vulnerable groups of persons – generally those who face broader social exclusion and discrimination – are at particular risk of targeted killing. And when they are attacked, governments are far less likely to investigate the cases or prosecute the perpetrators. Perhaps no such group is at greater risk than transgender individuals – those who dare to live authentic lives in defiance of gender expectations or stereotypes.

Public health groups estimate that the life expectancy of a transgender woman in Latin America is between 30 and 35 years, and possibly lower in parts of Central America. And for regions where transgender homicides are completely ignored and statistics purposefully obscured, the measure of a transgender life may be even lower. Extreme violence goes a long way in explaining these shocking disparities.

In the context of this somber day of remembrance, it is comforting to recognize that the struggle for global equality is gaining ground, even in the culture wars of the United Nations. An effort yesterday by Saudi Arabia to strip the reference to vulnerable groups in the resolution on extrajudicial killings, which was clearly understood as an attempt to strip the sexual orientation and gender identity language from the text, was roundly defeated, with eighty-two governments across all regions voting to name the violence against LGBT individuals and keep the reference to vulnerable groups in the text. Only fifty-three governments supported the Saudi deceit, which represents a growing consensus around LGBT rights as human rights.

The final text was adopted in committee yesterday with only one vote in opposition, and it will now go to the full UN General Assembly for a vote in December. The United States, which in the past has supported the spirit of the text but abstained on technical legal grounds, joined the growing majority in voting for the resolution this year. That represents an additionally important victory for human rights.

The vote at the United Nations yesterday, on the heels of the adoption of another, stand-alone resolution on “human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity” at the United Nations last month, represents a turning point in the way the United Nations responds to human rights violations targeting LGBT individuals. And while its impact may not yet be measured in lives saved or years lived, it represents concerted advocacy and increasing political will within the United Nations. And that growing consensus will eventually be measured in human development – in both the quantity and the quality of the years lived by transgender youth of tomorrow.

President Kim’s Clarion Call

Repost from Huffington Post by Maria Burnett (Human Rights Watch)

In February, the World Bank delayed a $90 million loan for health care in Uganda out of concern over its new Anti-Homosexuality Act. Since then, the Constitutional Courtnullified the law for lack of a parliamentary quorum during the vote. But the government quickly filed a notice of appeal. Members of parliament are also pressing to bring the law back to the floor, swearing they can gather the constitutionally-required numbers.

Just as troubling, another law came into force in July that criminalizes even unintentional HIV transmission and requires HIV testing of pregnant women without their consent, and forced disclosure.

In a personal and thought-provoking Washington Post op-ed earlier this year, World Bank President Jim Kim said that discrimination is bad for economies, societies and individuals. It can prevent people from fully participating in the work force and discourage multinational companies from investing or locating activities in countries with discriminatory laws, he said.

Implicit in the message was that discrimination is bad for governments receiving development assistance too. It would appear that President Yoweri Museveni is alsostarting to understand the economic cost of anti-equality policies, but his rhetoric has been inconsistent. The World Bank/International Monetary Fund annual meetings in Washington this week give President Kim a critical opportunity to stand up for these concerns and push Uganda’s government to take meaningful steps to address discrimination in health services.

The frequently reported discrimination in Ugandan health centers against sex workers and gay men discourages people from seeking care. Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda, the former health minister, in August admitted to two groups that discrimination exists and that the government is not equipped to monitor or respond to it.

Last week, in a letter to President Kim, 16 Ugandan and international organizations laid out enforceable steps the bank should take to see that discrimination in care for marginalized groups ends before releasing the loan. Steps include requiring the government to prohibit discrimination in healthcare delivery on grounds of gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and all other grounds articulated under international law, and requiring government health care workers to respect patient confidentiality, privacy and informed consent to all treatment.

The World Bank should also fund activities to promote patients’ rights, including providing patient advocates and legal counsel for people who face discrimination, breach of confidentiality or other abuses in health settings and training for Ugandan health workers to respect these rights. The groups also pressed the bank to urge the government to guarantee that it wouldn’t interfere with independent monitoring of health services.

It is crucial for the World Bank to urge the Ugandan government, publicly and privately, to repeal all discriminatory laws and end discriminatory practices. The bank should emphasize the importance of non-discrimination for health and economic development.

After 28 years in power, President Museveni is gearing up to run again in 2016. Aid has continued to flow despite large-scale corruption scandals, but this time should be different. The bank’s decision on the loan will affect the bank’s credibility in Uganda and beyond.

President Kim’s statement about the deleterious economic impact of discrimination was a precedent-setting decision to stand up for human rights. Pushing for real safeguards could significantly contribute to mitigating discrimination against LGBTI patients, women and other marginalized populations who are at disproportionately high risk of negative health outcomes and poverty.

Releasing the loan without meaningful safeguards, while Uganda’s parliamentarians continue to pass discriminatory laws and urge more discriminatory measures, would show a profound disregard for President Kim’s clarion call.

U.N. Human Rights Council adopts LGBT resolution

Photo: @gustavopecoraro

Photo: @gustavopecoraro

Press Statement from ARC International

(Geneva, September 26, 2014) – The United Nations Human Rights Council resolution on combatting violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity (L.27/Rev.1), adopted today, Is a critically important achievement for upholding the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 25 human rights groups said today. The resolution follows a resolution adopted three years ago in June 2011, when the Council passed the first ever UN resolution on human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Uruguay, and 42 additional co-sponsors introduced the resolution. In its presentation to the Council, Chile stated that “this resolution does not seek to create new rights…there are some whose rights are more violated and need more protection.“ Colombia added “the report that we request is part of existing international law.“ The resolution survived a total of seven hostile amendments, introduced by Egypt on behalf of ten States, seeking to strip the resolution of all references to sexual orientation and gender identity. Brazil stated that the proposed amendments would “seek to radically change the purpose and focus of the resolution and changes its substance.”  Ultimately, the resolution was passed by a vote of 25 in favor, 14 against, and 7 abstentions, with support from all regions and an increased base of support since 2011.

“The leadership of these Latin American states reflects strong commitment to human rights for all and follows the significant progress that is being made by governments and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, travesti, and intersex activists in the region,” said Andres Rivera Duarte from the Observatorio Derechos Humanos y Legislación, Chile.

The resolution asks the High Commissioner for Human Rights to update a 2012 study on violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity (A/HRC/19/41), with a view to sharing good practices and ways to overcome violence and discrimination. The resolution expresses grave concern at acts of violence and discrimination in all regions of the world committed against individuals because of their sexual orientation and gender identity. This resolution demonstrates that this issue remains on the agenda of the Human Rights Council and sends a message of support to people around the world who experience this type of violence and discrimination, said the 25 groups.

“While we would have preferred to see an institutionalized reporting mechanism, the council has still sent a strong message of support to human rights defenders working on these issues. We look forward to States implementing the outcomes of these reports,” said Jonas Bagas, of TLF Share in the Philippines. Continue reading ‘U.N. Human Rights Council adopts LGBT resolution’

Joint CSO Letter to World Bank on Discrimination in Uganda’s Health Sector

Dr. Jim Yong Kim
The World Bank
1818 H St. NW
Washington DC 20433

Dear Dr. Kim:

We write to follow up on our letters of April 1 and May 6, 2014, regarding concerns about discrimination in Uganda’s health sector and the World Bank’s delay of its US$90 million loan.

We, once again, welcome your commitment to ensure that there is no discrimination in World Bank financed projects in Uganda and public recognition that discrimination is not only wrong, but undermines economic growth.

Six months after your decision to delay the health sector loan, we remain concerned that there are still not sufficient safeguards in place to prevent discrimination in health service provision for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) patients, or for women, among other groups in Uganda. In this letter, we share recommendations for the World Bank’s next steps in Uganda and request a meeting with your office as you chart a strategic way forward to ensure that World Bank funding does not entrench discrimination via its loans and other financial instruments. On August 26 during a meeting with the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights and Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), Uganda’s former minister of health and new prime minister, Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda, made comments that reinforce this concern: he agreed that there is discrimination in the health sector, and that the government is not equipped to monitor the health sector for discrimination or to respond to discrimination when it occurs.

The Anti-Homosexuality Act
As you know, on August 1 Uganda’s Constitutional Court ruled that the Anti-Homosexuality Act was void due to a lack of quorum in parliament during the vote. While we welcome this important ruling, it did not address the substantive rights at jeopardy in the law.

Moreover the Ugandan government has unambiguously indicated that it remains committed to the discriminatory approach and practices that were reflected in the law. For example, the attorney general immediately filed an appeal to the Supreme Court; and while President Museveni has asked for the appeal to be put on hold temporarily, it is only so a ruling party parliamentary committee can determine if and how the law should be returned to parliament anew. Also, since the ruling, several government officials, including President Museveni, have spoken out in favor of the criminalization of the “promotion of homosexuality” which jeopardizes public health work.

The situation in Uganda remains volatile, especially as campaigning for the 2016 elections gets underway. There is a very real possibility all or significant portions of the discriminatory Anti-Homosexuality Act could be passed in parliament again in the next 12 to 18 months. Effectively, the Ugandan government’s pursuit of discriminatory policies against LGBTI people, including in the healthcare sector, is unchanged by the Constitutional Court ruling.

In what appears to be an effort to encourage donors, including the World Bank, to maintain funding to Uganda’s healthcare sector despite the discriminatory environment, the Ministry of Health produced a ministerial directive this year establishing guidelines for health workers who treat LGBTI people. While a written commitment to non-discrimination in the healthcare sector should not be dismissed, this directive is very problematic. It describes the provision of health services to LGBTI people as an “ethical dilemma” for healthcare workers – rather than a professional obligation or equal access to health care as a fundamental human right. The directive creates a de-facto “separate but unequal” system for LGBTI people seeking healthcare. It also remains wholly unenforceable in law. It provides no substantive protection to LGBTI people, or to healthcare workers providing services to LGBTI people, nor does it require any substantive action by the government in terms of upholding non-discrimination in the health sector. It should not be seen as meaningful action on the part of the government to address the World Bank’s publicly stated concerns which led to the loan’s delay.

The HIV Prevention and Control Act
Just as worrying, on July 31, President Museveni signed into law the HIV Prevention and Control Act, which not only criminalizes transmission and attempted transmission of HIV but allows for mandatory testing of pregnant women, their partners, and victims of sexual violence; allows certain people including health workers to reveal the HIV status of their patients without their patients’ consent; and enables courts to order the release of individuals’ HIV status without their consent.

Women tested against their will, or whose HIV status may be revealed against their will, may be exposed to potential physical violence from partners who fear or blame them for infection. Not only are the law’s provisions contrary to well-established international best practices of confidentiality, consent and counseling – a bedrock in the fight against HIV – but the well-documented impact of such punitive measures is to drive people away from services and fuel fear and further discrimination.

Given Uganda’s ongoing discriminatory environment in the allocation of health services, we believe it remains very important for the World Bank to ensure strong safeguards are in place before the delayed loan is released. Such action could significantly contribute to mitigating against existing discrimination experienced by LGBTI patients, women, and other marginalized and excluded populations who are at disproportionately high risk of negative health outcomes and poverty.

We recommend that the World Bank:

1. Publicly share the outcome of the World Bank’s independent assessment of the impact of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act on the proposed $90 million loan.

2. Only fund the health sector through the proposed $90 million loan if it includes

(a) Components funding:

  • Routine pre-service and in-service training of the Ugandan health workforce in non-discrimination in service delivery, building on existing training efforts led by civil society;
  • Robust monitoring, and supervision measures to enforce expectations regarding non-discrimination, beyond current supervisory structures. This would include, in addition to other mechanisms, independent third party monitoring to identify instances of discrimination;
  • Activities to promote all patients’ rights to non-discrimination, confidentiality, privacy, and consent to or to refuse treatment, and to be informed about risk of medical procedures during health service delivery – for example through public messages, health promotion activities, signs in clinics and public places, and other strategic communications efforts (in English and local languages); and
  • Measures to determine consumer satisfaction with health service quality.

(b) Loan covenants:

  • Prohibiting all forms of discrimination, including on the grounds of gender, sexual orientation, and gender identity, and all other grounds articulated under international law;
  • Requiring the government to respect patient confidentiality, privacy, and informed consent to all treatment, which requires being fully informed of the risks involved with medical procedures and medication;
  • Requiring that there not be any interference with any civil society or other third party monitoring of health institutions;

3. Through the Global Partnership for Social Accountability and other World Bank civil society funding mechanisms, provide financial support for patient advocates and legal counsel for individuals who face discrimination, breach of confidentiality, or other abuses in health settings;

4. Review Uganda’s new HIV law, in close collaboration with Ugandan civil society and independent experts, and describe mitigating measures the World Bank will take to ensure Uganda’s health systems is strengthened and HIV objectives are achieved given the discriminatory environment, and publish both the review and mitigating measures;

5. Publicly and privately at all levels urge the government to repeal all discriminatory laws and end discriminatory practices, emphasizing the importance of non-discrimination for health and development and emphasize that the government’s lack of progress in this area will increasingly call into question aspects of the government’s relationship with the World Bank.

We firmly believe that the World Bank’s decision regarding the $90 million loan will have a profound impact on the credibility of the World Bank in Uganda and beyond.  Countries seeking to benefit from World Bank funding should clearly understand that the delay of the loan was not a superficial decision, but rather a serious statement about the deleterious economic impact of discrimination and a precedent-setting decision to stand up for human rights. But that is not possible if the delay is concluded without any substantive progress by government regarding nondiscrimination in the health sector.

We would appreciate the opportunity to discuss the way forward in Uganda with you given the critical World Bank engagement there and the impact of the situation in Uganda on other countries who may benefit from World Bank financial instruments in the future.

Thank you for your consideration of these important issues. We look forward to meeting with you or your staff to take this conversation forward.


Aaron Dorfman, Vice President for National Programs, American Jewish World Service (AJWS)
Kevin Robert Frost, Chief Executive Officer, AmFAR
Chad Dobson, Executive Director, Bank Information Center (BIC)
Moses Mulumba, Executive Director, Center for Health, Human Rights and Development (CEHURD)
Jeff Ogwaro, Coordinator, Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law (CSCHRCL)
Mark Bromley, Council Chair, The Council for Global Equality
Asia Russell, Director of International Policy, Health GAP
David Stacy,Director for Government Affairs, Human Rights Campaign
Jessica Evans, Senior Advocate/Researcher for International Financial Institutions, Human Rights Watch
Brant Luswata, Resource Center Manager, Icebreakers Uganda
Wade McMullen, Staff Attorney,Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights
Frank Mugisha, Executive Director, Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG)
Moses Kimbugwe, Programs Director, Spectrum Uganda
Najib Kabuye, Director, Uganda Harmonized Rights Alliance
Kikonyogo Kivumbi, Executive Director, Uganda Health and Science Press Association (UHSPA)
Beyonce Karungi, Director, TransEquality Uganda

World Bank Board of Executive Directors
Hon. Ruhakana Rugunda, Prime Minister, Uganda
Mr. Makhtar Diop, Vice President for Africa, World Bank
Mr. Tim Evans, Health Sector Director, World Bank
Mr. Olusoji O. Adeyi, Sector Manager, Health, Nutrition and Population, Africa, World Bank
Mr. Philippe Dongier, Country Director, Uganda, World Bank
Mr. Moustapha Ndaiye, Country Manager, Uganda, World Bank
Mr. Peter Okwero, Health Specialist, World Bank, Uganda
Mr. Mark Dybul, Executive Director, The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria
Dr. Deborah Birx, U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator

AJWS and Human Rights Organizations Meet with White House to Make the Case for a Special U.S. Envoy for LGBT Rights

Photo: AJWS

Photo: AJWS

Repost from American Jewish World Service

Washington D.C. – American Jewish World Service (AJWS) and a coalition of advocacy and human rights organizations met with White House officials today to ask President Obama to appoint a Special Envoy for the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) peoples within the U.S. Department of State.

“As the scourge of state-sanctioned discrimination and violence against LGBT people spreads, it is imperative that the United States take a strong diplomatic stand in demanding the equal enforcement of human rights,” said Ruth Messinger, president of AJWS, the leading Jewish international development and human rights organization. “We appreciate the willingness of the White House to meet with us and our allies during what is becoming an increasingly dangerous time for LGBT people across the globe.”

Members of AJWS staff were joined at the White House by representatives from the Council for Global Equality, National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE), Amnesty International USA, Human Rights First, National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and Human Rights Campaign (HRC). Continue Reading

LGBTI Rights Around the World: A Work in Progress

kyleknight-photoRepost: IRIN Humanitarian News

BANGKOK (IRIN) — In recent years, the world has seen enormous human rights gains with respect to sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. However, there have also been substantial setbacks — ranging from discriminatory legislation, to impunity for brutal violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) people.

Charles Radcliffe, chief of the Global Issues Section at the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), noted: “Supporting LGBT rights work around the world is about recognizing that hostilities toward LGBT people are deeply ingrained in societies and that changing those mindsets and protecting these people is the duty of governments.”

Same-sex marriage is now legal in 17 countries and parts of two others; a handful of countries legally recognize gender based on self-identification alone, with Argentinaand Nepal leading the way and Denmark recently joining their ranks. A 2014 Indian Supreme Court judgment in favour of transgender rights showed what one legal scholar, gesturing to Nepali and Pakistani court cases, called “the possibility of developing a unique South Asian jurisprudence on transgender rights.” Continue Reading

Gambia: President Should Reject Homophobic Law

President Yahya Jammeh of GambiaRepost from Human Rights Watch

(Dakar) – President Yahya Jammeh of Gambia should not sign a new Criminal Code amendment that would increase the punishment for “aggravated homosexuality” to life in prison, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said today. The measure would further add to the climate of fear for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) people in Gambia.

Several provisions of the law violate international human rights law and amount to persecution on the basis of real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. Sections of the law are similar to the harsh homophobic legislation that was annulled in August 2014 in Uganda.

“President Jammeh should not approve this profoundly damaging act that violates international human rights law,” said Stephen Cockburn, deputy regional Director for West and Central Africa director at Amnesty International. “Gambia’s National Assembly and the President should not endorse state-sponsored homophobia.” Continue Reading

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