Archive for November, 2011

Berman Condemns Nigerian Assault On LGBT Rights

Howard BermanPress Statement from Congressman Howard L. Berman

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

CONTACT: Gabby Adler
202.225.8110, office
202.215.4509, cell

Berman Condemns Nigerian Assault On LGBT Rights

Washington, DC – Congressman Howard L. Berman, Ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, released the following statement in response to the Nigerian Senate passing a bill criminalizing same-sex marriages.

“The Nigerian Senate was wrong to pass legislation that not only imposes criminal penalties against consenting adults in same-sex relationships, but also criminalizes any group or organization that publicly supports or advocates for LGBT rights.  Such legislation would have a chilling effect on freedom of speech and expression in Nigeria and have grave implications for HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment efforts.   I urge the Nigerian House of Representatives to reject this reprehensible legislation, and should this bill be presented to President Jonathan for his signature, I would hope that he would veto it.  The Nigerian government has an obligation under international law to guarantee the safety and protection of all human rights defenders regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation.”


Related Article: Nigerian Senate Approves Anti-Gay Marriage Bill

A Lone Activist Crusades for Change in Cameroon

Image: The Advocate

Re-Post from the The Advocate
By Andrew Harmon

Civil rights attorney Alice Nkom is in an isolated fight for the west central African nation’s vulnerable gay community.

Alice Nkom is accustomed to polarized public opinion about her civil rights work on behalf of Cameroon’s marginalized LGBT community. The defense attorney is highly praised by international human rights groups yet vociferously denounced by many in her own country. She ignores the latter with aplomb as she visits dilapidated prisons where her clients face bleak prospects.

Nkom is one of only a few lawyers in the west central African nation of 19 million people bold enough to represent those arrested and imprisoned on charges of same-sex sexual conduct, which can carry jail sentences of up to five years for both men and women. She describes their treatment in prison as inhuman, horrid, violent. “I must help them live,” Nkom, 66, says in a recent phone interview from the capital city of Yaoundé. “I must give them the strength to say, ‘Yes, I am this way.’ And I want to help people understand that being gay is OK.” Continue Reading

Frank Mugisha receives the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights’ prestigious Human Rights Award today

Frank Mugisha, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award 2011Update: Watch Frank Mugisha accept the RFK Human Rights Award.

November 10, 2011 – There are three things you need to know when Frank Mugisha receives the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights’ prestigious Human Rights Award today.

First, the award is more than well-deserved.  Frank has been a tireless and courageous advocate for the fair, respectful and equal treatment of Uganda’s LGBT citizens in one of the most difficult, even dangerous climates for LGBT people anywhere in the world.  His willingness to take on this role, even after the murder of his colleague David Kato, speaks to his strong sense of social justice.  And the quiet commitment he has shown in the uphill climb to equality in Uganda is nothing short of inspirational.

Second, the Robert F. Kennedy Center’s multi-year partnership with SMUG, offered as part of this award, is a model that other organizations would do well to follow.  Rather than offering a plaque or trophy and retreating to applause, the Center has pledged to work with Frank to elevate the work of his organization, Sexual Minorities of Uganda (SMUG), for a period of six years.  And rather than proposing a one-size-fits-all package of benefits, the Center is working actively with Frank and others who best understand Uganda’s civil society to chart a path forward.  This is the kind of smart, hand-and-heart advocacy that has the best prospects of propelling success.

And third, though the spotlight on Uganda’s anti-gay bill has faded for now, the dangers to Uganda’s LGBT community are as strong as ever.  Many members of that community are in hiding, or indeed have left the country, a result of a climate of fear that has only grown since Kato’s murder.  And the anti-gay bill has not gone away.  Indeed, support for the bill remains high in numerous social and political circles, and there are well-founded concerns that it may be resurrected in time for the country’s next round of elections.

Frank Mugisha’s selection as this year’s award recipient underscores that LGBT rights have become central to the wider cause of universal human rights.  He deserves not only this recognition by the Robert F Kennedy Center, but all of our steadfast support in the cause he so ably champions.

Secretary Clinton “Creating an AIDS-free Generation”

Watch Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s address an audience at the National Institute of Health on working towards an AIDS-free generation. You can also read her remarks here.

Update: Read the blog posting “Secretary Clinton: Thank You, and More, Please” written by Zoe Hudson, Senior Policy Analyst with Open Society Foundations

Constructive Debates on Conditionality

Conditionality DebateThe Council has been encouraging constructive debate around the recent Statement of African social justice activists on conditionality in response to LGBTI-related human rights concerns in Africa and beyond.  Many of us here at the Council for Global Equality, which focuses on advocacy with U.S. foreign policy leaders in the United States, have found the statement useful.  We trust it is equally helpful for many of our colleagues in other donor countries who also lobby their foreign and development ministries.

Within the Council, we are debating whether some forms of conditionality are appropriate in response to human rights concerns.  Indeed, some have even argued that the failure to condition some forms of aid in the face of deteriorating human rights conditions is even more alarming, and a violation of the public trust that citizens have placed in the U.S. government to put our development resources to their best use.

Let us step back and make three assertions, all of which are followed by a series of questions for ongoing discussion.  First, not all aid is the same, and while perhaps some humanitarian aid should never have any conditions attached (although that, too, is open for discussion), other forms of aid seem to lend themselves to some form of conditionality.  Second, not all conditions are the same; the context matters enormously.  And third, consultation and partnership with local organizations seems to be the key, and that is where we clearly see a need for more discussion.  In particular, we need to develop a better understanding of what constitutes meaningful and sufficient consultations around such complex decisions, taking into account the power dynamics that have been so well articulated by African social justice activists. Continue reading ‘Constructive Debates on Conditionality’

IACHR Creates Unit on the Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Intersex Persons

OASPress Release from Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR)

Washington, D.C., November 3, 2011—During its 143rd regular session, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) decided to create a Unit on the Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Intersex (LGBTI) Persons, in order to strengthen its capacity to protect their rights.

In recent years the IACHR has closely followed the situation of the rights of LGBTI persons, primarily through precautionary measures, hearings, country visits, and promotional activities. The Commission has sought to protect and promote their rights and has witnessed the serious human rights violations that many of these individuals face in their daily lives.

The Commission has confirmed that LGBTI persons face serious discrimination, both in fact and in law, in the countries of the region. Among other violations, the IACHR has received information about murders, rapes, and threats to which LGBTI persons are victims. In addition, LGBTI persons face significant barriers in their access to health, employment, justice, and political participation. Continue reading ‘IACHR Creates Unit on the Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Intersex Persons’

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