Washington, DC – May 25, 2012 – The Department of State’s 2011 Human Rights Report, released yesterday, catalogues an ongoing range of abuses and discriminatory treatment directed at lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people worldwide – starkly underscoring what Secretary Hillary Clinton has called “…one of the remaining human rights challenges of our time.”
Speaking in Geneva last December, Secretary Clinton noted that, too often, LGBT people remain an “invisible minority,” members of which “…are arrested, beaten, terrorized, even executed…” while “…authorities empowered to protect them look the other way or, too often, even join in the abuse.”
The newly released report bears witness to such abuse. Most disturbingly, it documents that police, other government security forces, and prison personnel have been implicated directly in the harassment or abuse of LGBT citizens in a range of countries, including (but not limited to) Afghanistan, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, El Salvador, Guatemala, India, Indonesia, Kuwait, Kyrgyz Republic, and Panama. Harassment and abuse often were directed in particular at transgender individuals. In Turkey, a range of LGBT organizations complained of harassment by police and government authorities. In Cote d’Ivoire, the report notes that “gay men were reportedly subjected to beatings, imprisonment, verbal abuse, humiliation, and extortion by police, gendarmes, and members of the armed forces.”
The report also describes broader patterns of discrimination against LGBT individuals in many areas of the world. In Sierra Leone and India, LGBT people have been denied basic social services, from health services to housing. In Botswana and many other countries, governments failed to register LGBT advocacy groups or recognize their status as legitimate civil society organizations. In Russia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and elsewhere, LGBT employees have been driven from their jobs, or faced discrimination in hiring, because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. In Nigeria, local authorities again failed to take any legal action against persons who stoned and beat members of the House of Rainbow Metropolitan Community Church, an LGBT-affirming church in Lagos in 2008. During the past year, church parishioners and clergy continued to receive threatening e-mail messages, phone calls and letters.
The report notes that in South Africa, the country’s largest LGBT organization received in Cape Town alone an average of 10 new cases every week of lesbians being targeted for “corrective rape.” This disturbing trend also was noted in other countries, where men raped lesbians “to punish them for being lesbian and to attempt to change their sexual orientation.”
Finally, various reports include instances in which the internet has been a source of discrimination against LGBT people. These include Oman, where authorities took measures to block LGBT related content from the internet, and Iran, which monitored internet websites for information on LGBT individuals.
The Council is grateful to our Foreign Service personnel who understand that, as Secretary Clinton has said, LGBT rights are, in fact, human rights. We urge that the State Department and Congress work together to carry out a serious, sustained and purposeful dialogue with governing officials in all countries, as identified in the Department’s report, that have failed to recognize this essential reality, with a goal of ensuring that LGBT people are treated with the dignity, fairness, and equality to which all people should be entitled. We further urge ongoing scrutiny of the degree to which foreign governments respect and honor the rights of their LGBT citizens, in keeping with the democratic and human rights principles on which U.S. foreign policy should be based.
Excerpts of the report’s findings on LGBT issues in every country can be downloaded here.