Archive for December, 2010

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.

In Africa, homosexuality emerging as hot-button issue

Re-posted from The Christian Science Monitor

By Scott Baldauf, Staff writer / December 8, 2010

Johannesburg, South Africa

Long seen as a fringe societal taboo far from the realm of African politics, homosexuality is emerging as a hot-button issue throughout much of the continent. Kenya, East Africa’s economic hub, joined the trend in late November when Prime Minister Raila Odinga told supporters in the Nairobi slum of Kibera that he would order police to arrest gays.

“We will not tolerate such behavior in the country. The Constitution is very clear on this issue, and men or women found engaging in homosexuality will not be spared,” Mr. Odinga said in Swahili, in comments that were taped by several news organizations. “Any man found engaging in sexual activities with another man should be arrested. Even women found engaging in sexual activities will be arrested.” Continue to read this story.

Malawi’s parliament has adopted a bill criminalizing consensual sex between women

Malawi’s parliament has adopted a bill criminalizing consensual sex between women. Malawi’s President must now decide whether to sign the bill into law. Malawi’s penal code currently prohibits homosexual relations between men but not between women.

David Bahati is no longer welcome to attend international conference

The Council is pleased to learn that the organizers of the conference that Mr. Bahati is traveling to Washington DC to attend have decided that he will no longer be welcome because of his views toward the LGBT community. We applaud their decision.

Ugandan Parliamentarian who introduced the “kill the gays” bill may be in Washington

We are disappointed to learn that the Ugandan Parliamentarian who introduced the “kill the gays” bill may be in Washington this month for an international conference. We encourage those who meet him to remind him just how hateful his efforts are and how destructive they have been to our country’s longstanding relationship with Uganda. Mr. Bahati is simply one minor parliamentarian who is attempting to build his reputation and political base on his homophobia. We refuse to give him any recognition while in Washington.

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