Archive for December, 2010

Consular Report of Birth Abroad Certificate Improvements

repost from the US Department of State Website

Media Note | Office of the Spokesman

Washington, DC

December 22, 2010

The Department of State is pleased to announce the introduction of a redesigned Consular Report of Birth Abroad (CRBA). The CRBA is an official record confirming that a child born overseas to a U.S. citizen parent acquired U.S. citizenship at birth. The redesigned document has state-of-the-art security features that make it extremely resistant to alterations or forgery.

CRBAs have been printed at U.S. Embassies and Consulates around the world since their introduction in 1919. Effective January 3, 2011, CRBAs will be printed at our passport facilities in Portsmouth, New Hampshire and New Orleans, Louisiana. Centralizing production and eliminating the distribution of controlled blank form stock throughout the world ensures improved uniform quality and lessens the threat of fraud.

Applications for U.S. passports and the redesigned CRBA will also use the title of “parent” as opposed to “mother” and “father.” These improvements are being made to provide a gender neutral description of a child’s parents and in recognition of different types of families.

For media inquiries regarding the CRBA, please contact or 202-647-1488.

The revised CRBA application is available at

The first anniversary of the Malawi gay arrests

by David Jones, CEDEP-Malawi US Volunteer

Whether in December you celebrate Ashura, Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa, the Solstice, or the Gregorian or Islamic New Year, please remember Tiwonge Chimbalanga in your prayers.  Things are not going well.

We haven’t heard much lately, the result of a request to let quiet diplomacy work on asylum.

Meanwhile Tiwonge is suffering and safety is becoming a more relevant consideration than patience.

In recent weeks:  Tiwonge went to Blantyre to get her passport, stayed with a relative, a crowd gathered and circled the house, and the relative asked her to leave.  In Lilongwe Tiwonge had malaria and needed to see a doctor.  A threatening crowd gathered at the public health centre and she had to leave.  It happened again when Tiwonge needed to have a tooth pulled, and she had to sneak into a private clinic at night.

Tiwonge is hiding in a house in a neighborhood of Lilongwe.  The house is also used as an office.  The houses there are small.  The bedrooms are the size of many walk-in closets in the US.  There is no privacy and the strain on everyone is becoming enormous.  Recently when staff were away one night Tiwonge walked the short distance to a rough commercial area where there are shops, a traditional market, men hanging around fires looking for piecework, petrol stations, a truck stop and several bars.  She was recognized and seriously beaten, and had her only valuable possession stolen, her cell phone.

Since we cannot tell when there may be a response on asylum there is a discussion now of moving Tiwonge to South Africa for her safety.  There are organizations that may be able to host Tiwonge there and provide support while we wait (Malawians have easy entry into South Africa although the time she can spend there is limited, and there is a backlash against African immigration, so this is not a permanent solution.).  Moving may even strengthen her case by highlighting the clear risk to her safety in Malawi.  Discussions will begin on this option now.  If this is possible I may be asking you for help in moving Tiwonge.  MCC-New York has just made a donation to Tiwonge which will arrive just in time for Christmas!

December 28th will be the first anniversary of the Malawi gay arrests.  Please take some note of this.  Tiwonge was pardoned but is not free.  Tiwonge is still confined, and living with emotional trauma and physical danger.

Please take some time this December to try to send Tiwonge some strength as you celebrate in your own way this season’s hope for new beginnings.

U.S. Leads Battle to Recognize Gay Rights at UN: Historic General Assembly Vote Reaffirms Equality for All

December 21, 2010 – In an important victory for LGBT rights on the floor of the UN General Assembly today, 93 countries supported a human rights resolution condemning gay killings around the world, with 55 countries voting against.  The vote reverses an earlier effort by conservative countries to strip the reference to sexual orientation.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice announced earlier this month on International Human Rights Day (December 10) that the U.S. would push for the vote, and that she was “incensed” that language on sexual orientation in a human rights resolution on extrajudicial killings had been dropped in a UN committee vote.  The Council applauds the principled leadership of the United States and other like-minded countries in restoring that language and staking out a clear claim for gay men and lesbians at the United Nations.   We now look forward to further efforts at the United Nations to respond to the rights of transgender individuals, who are even more frequently targeted for violence and death in many parts of the world. Continue Reading

Read the White House press statement

Read the State Department’s press statement

Read the statement by Amb. Susan Rice

NPR reports on the Anti-Gay Atmosphere Permeating Uganda

Listen to Barbara Bradley Hagerty’s report on the anti-gay atmosphere permeating Uganda. The story includes audio from her interview with the “kill the gays” bill author David Bahati as well as audio from Bishop Christopher Senyonjo.

Listen Here.

Gay rights in focus before UN vote

repost from The AP

By ANITA SNOW| The Associated Press
Sunday, December 19, 2010

UNITED NATIONS — A culture war has broken out at the United Nations over whether gays should be singled out for the same protections as other minorities whose lives are threatened.

The battle will come to a head on Tuesday when the General Assembly votes to renew its routine condemnation of the unjustified killing of various categories of vulnerable people.

It specifies killings for racial, national, ethnic, religious or linguistic reasons and includes refugees, indigenous people and other groups. But the resolution, because of a change promoted by Arab and African nations and approved at committee level, this time around drops “sexual orientation” and replaces it with “discriminatory reasons on any basis.”

The U.S. government says it is “incensed” at the change, as are gay rights campaigners. Full Story

Take Action on an Important LGBT Vote at the United Nations

U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice announced on Friday that the U.S. will press for a major UN vote to restore language in a resolution on extrajudicial killings to emphasize that LGBT people are often the targets of such murders. The resolution in the UN General Assembly is on “Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions.”

A fight on this language will take place on the floor of the UN General Assembly on December 20. Friendly states will seek to restore sexual orientation language that was lost in a surprising vote last month in the committee of the General Assembly that marks up human rights resolutions. This will be a difficult vote, and victory is not certain, but it represents a very principled and strong U.S. government commitment to LGBT rights.

Please download advocacy materials here in English, French or Spanish that NGOs are using at the UN and in capitals to press their governments to vote the right way on December 20. These were prepared by a coalition of NGOs with ARC International taking the lead. Please distribute widely to any colleagues in government or in the NGO advocacy world who might be in a position to influence their government’s vote.

Additional information on the speech by Amb. Rice at a Human Rights Day event at the UN on Friday can be found here.

Gays in Africa face growing persecution, activists say

repost from the Washington Post

By Sudarsan Raghavan
Washington Post | Foreign Service
Sunday, December 12, 2010; A12

KAMPALA, UGANDA – Persecution of gays is intensifying across Africa, fueled by fundamentalist preachers, intolerant governments and homophobic politicians. Gay people have been denied access to health care, detained, tortured and even killed, human rights activists and witnesses say.

The growing tide of homophobia comes at a time when gays in Africa are expressing themselves more openly, prompting greater media attention and debates about homosexuality. The rapid growth of Islam and evangelical forms of Christianity, both espousing conservative views on family values and marriage, have persuaded many Africans that homosexuality should not be tolerated in their societies.

“It has never been harder for gays and lesbians on the continent,” said Monica Mbaru, Africa coordinator for the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, based in Cape Town. “Homophobia is on the rise.”

Fearing for their lives, many activists are in hiding or have fled their countries.

In Uganda, a bill introduced in parliament last year would impose the death penalty for repeated same-sex relations and life imprisonment for other homosexual acts. Local newspapers are outing gays, potentially inciting the public to attack them, activists say.

A day after a newspaper article said that gays should be hanged, Sheila Hope Mugisha became a target. As the prominent gay rights activist neared her home, she said, boys from the neighborhood threw stones at the gate and chanted, “You are a homo.” Mugisha ran inside and locked the door. She didn’t leave for several days.

“Here, homosexuality is like you have killed someone,” she said.

American gay activists have sent money to help the community here. Western governments – including aid donors – have vocally criticized the bill and denounced the treatment of gays.

That has angered conservative pastors here, many of whom are influenced by American anti-gay Christian groups and politicians who say that African values are under attack by Western attitudes. They say their goal is to change the sexual behavior of gays, not to physically harm them.

“In Uganda, we look at homosexuality as an abomination. It is not normal,” said Nsaba Butoro, Uganda’s minister on ethics and integrity and a vocal supporter of the bill. “You are talking about a clash of cultures. The question is: Which culture is superior, the African one or the Western one?” Continue Reading

U.S. will press for a major UN vote to restore language in a resolution on extrajudicial killings

UN, New York, Dec. 10—In a speech at a UN event to mark International Human Rights Day, U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice today announced that the U.S. will press for a major UN vote to restore language in a human rights resolution on extrajudicial killings to emphasize that LGBT people are often the targets of such murders.

The high-level panel marking human rights day focused exclusively on violence, discrimination and related abuse against LGBT communities worldwide.  UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon opened the event by noting that “these are not merely assaults on individuals.  They are attacks on all of us.”  He declared that “we have a collective responsibility to stand against discrimination, to defend our fellow human beings and our fundamental principles,” emphasizing that “from my first days in office as Secretary-General, I have spoken out against stigma and discrimination.”  He noted that he has called for decriminalization of homosexuality in all countries, and that he is proud of his individual interventions in support of LGBT rights, including his efforts last May to secure the release of a young transgender couple imprisoned in Malawi on criminal charges for homosexuality.  (See his full statement here.)

Ambassador Rice spoke of the progress the United States has achieved in support of equality, but noted that in the United States, “we have got a great deal more work to do.”  She expressed extreme disappointment at the vote in the U.S. Senate yesterday to block debate of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” noting that it “erodes our security, as well as our principles.”  She vowed to fight on in the United States and at the United Nations.  In particular, Rice noted that she was “incensed by the recent vote in the General Assembly’s Third Committee, which eliminated any mention of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals from a resolution condemning extrajudicial killing of vulnerable people around the world.”  She vowed to fight that decision on the floor of the UN General Assembly before an upcoming vote on December 20.  (See her full remarks here.)

The upcoming fight on LGBT language in the resolution condemning extrajudicial killings could be a very big—and very important—fight in the United Nations later this month.  It is the only UN human rights resolution that includes sexual orientation language, and the battle lines that were drawn last month during the committee vote that stripped the language were particularly sharp.  The campaign for LGBT-recognition in the General Assembly will be difficult, and victory is not certain, but it does embody the principled commitment of the U.S. government.

After the high-level discussion, which also included remarks by the Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights and other senior UN officials, three human rights defenders provided their own testimony of their real-life struggles and the violence they experience within their LGBT communities in Turkey, the Caribbean and southern Africa.

watch the full event here

Human Rights Day 2010

A New Passage to India: Can the U.S. and India Forge a Human Rights Partnership on LGBT Rights?

By Arvind Narrain and Mark Bromley

President Obama described his journey to India last month as the dawn of “one of the defining partnerships of the 21st century.”  And when confronted by human rights abuse, he reminded, “it is the responsibility of the international community—especially leaders like the United States and India—to condemn it.”

On this Human Rights Day (December 10), our countries should commit to a new partnership to protect those who are persecuted worldwide because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.  This is the latest chapter in the modern human rights struggle, and in Obama’s words, it is time to “put aside old habits and attitudes.”

The United States and India are late in joining the struggle.  Our courts propelled us forward, through legal decisions in the U.S. Supreme Court in 2003 and in the High Court of Delhi in 2009 that invalidated homosexual sodomy laws in each country. We now have an opportunity to turn those legal battles into larger human rights commitments, and to use them to frame difficult dialogues with other countries that continue to oppress their LGBT citizens. Continue Reading

Rachel Maddow exposes the stereotypes and prejudice that animate David Bahati

Rachel Maddow, MSNBC

The Council was pleased to see Rachel Maddow expose the stereotypes and prejudice that animate David Bahati, the parliamentarian who authored the “anti-homosexuality” bill in Uganda, on her show this evening.  Mr. Bahati claims his bill will protect children and families of Uganda.  To the contrary, it criminalizes LGBT individuals and families, and in the words of President Obama, it is simply “odious.”

Mr. Bahati this evening suggested that the parliament could pass the bill without a death penalty provision, but life in prison is hardly a compromise.  LGBT relations and relationships must never be criminalized, nor should the work of human rights advocates who defend LGBT rights or public health officials who reach out to vulnerable individuals who are most at risk of HIV infection.   In the words of Secretary Clinton, “gay rights are human rights,” in the United States, Africa and everywhere else.

We are pleased that the State Department showed good judgment in granting Mr. Bahati a very limited, single-entry visa.  It was issued for the sole purpose of Bahati’s request to attend a public financial management conference in Washington this week.  We note that Mr. Bahati abused that privilege and has instead used his visit to the United States to promote his assault on Uganda’s LGBT community through appearances on the Rachel Maddow show and in other U.S. media outlets.  We hope the U.S. embassy will take note of his true agenda in the United States, which appears incompatible with his visa request, and that officials will weigh his record of deceit against any future request by him for another U.S. visa.

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