Archive for May, 2013

For the First Time in History, the World Health Organization (WHO) Vigorously Debated LGBT Health

United Nations GenevaOn May 29, the Executive Board of the WHO, comprised of 34 member states, discussed an item titled “Improving the Health and Well-Being of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender People” for six hours at the United Nations in Geneva.

The item had been initiated by Thailand and the United States, but was objected by Nigeria and Egypt, on behalf of two of the six WHO regions.  Countries lined up clearly in support or in opposition to discussing LGBT people’s health issues as a legitimate public health topic. Opposing countries were exceedingly vocal in their discomfort with the topic, sometimes displaying extreme homophobia during the discussions. Support for the issue came from Asia, Latin America, Europe, and North America. The debate ended by striking the item from the agenda of this meeting, but with the assurance that the topic will return to the next meeting of the body under a different title that is more acceptable to the different regions represented at the WHO.

Department of Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary for Global Affairs Nils Daulaire, representing the United States at the meeting, argued, “The United States understands that access to care for LGBT persons is a sensitive issue for many Member States. It is sensitive in my own country. However, debating and seeking common ground on sensitive issues is one of the key reasons we all do the work we do. If there were clear and simple answers we wouldn’t have to be here….We have raised this issue as a health issue; we leave the rights debate to other bodies.”

Reports from every region of the world show that LGBT citizens lack equal access to health care and experience real discrimination based on exposing their sexual orientation, sexuality, gender identity, or gender expression in health care settings. Such discrimination takes many different forms, including outright denial of services, harassment, embarrassment, violence and arrest, as well as internalized stigma and shame. Such experiences lead directly and indirectly to bad health outcomes.

WHO has a clear recent history of a people-centered approach to the health needs of particularly vulnerable populations – women, disabled, indigenous people, the elderly, slum residents and others. Working to address the specific health challenges of LGBT populations is a logical, and indeed critical, next step for WHO in its efforts to improve vital and universal access to health care.

Ironically, despite the very contentious nature of the debate about whether to discuss the issue at all, the body discussed the topic for more than one-third of the two-day meeting. And despite extreme anti-LGBT statements by many governments, representatives from all over the world, including and especially some from Africa and the Middle East, re-affirmed their commitment to providing access to health to all citizens, without discrimination on any basis, including sexual orientation, gender, or other status.

USAID-supported gay training to take place in Colombia

El Capitolio Nacional Bogota ColombiaRepost from the Washington Balde

The first training as part of a USAID-backed public-private partnership designed to promote LGBT rights around the world will take place in the Colombian capital from May 30-June 2.

Advocates from across Colombia are expected to attend the Bogotá training that is designed to teach participants how to become involved in the country’s political process. The Gay and Lesbian Victory Institute and the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice will conduct the four-day seminar with Colombia Diversa, a nationwide LGBT advocacy group, as part of the LGBT Global Development Partnership that will contribute $11 million over the next four years to activist groups in neighboring Ecuador and other developing countries.

Colombia Diversa Executive Director Marcela Sánchez on Thursday will also moderate a panel on the role out public officials play in the advancement of LGBT rights in Colombia and the United States. Bogotá City Council member Angélica Lozano; Tatiana Piñeros, a transgender woman whom Bogotá Mayor Gustavo Petro appointed last year to run the Colombian capital’s social welfare agency; Gay and Lesbian Victory Institute President Chuck Wolfe and Francisco Herrero, director of the Democratic National Institute, a group that encourages underrepresented groups to become involved in the South American country’s political process, are scheduled to take part. Continue reading.

Peace Corps Announces New Service Opportunity for Same-Sex Couples

Peace Corps Press Statement

Washington, D.C., May 21, 2013 – Peace Corps Deputy Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet today announced that the agency will begin accepting applications from same-sex domestic partners who want to serve together as volunteers overseas. Same-sex couples may begin the application process starting Monday, June 3.

“Service in the Peace Corps is a life-defining leadership experience for Americans who want to make a difference around the world,” Deputy Director Hessler-Radelet said. “I am proud that the agency is taking this important step forward to allow same-sex domestic partners to serve overseas together.”

Expanding service opportunities to same-sex domestic partners who want to volunteer together further diversifies the pool of Peace Corps applicants and the skills of those invited to serve overseas in the fields of education, health, community economic development, environment, youth in development and agriculture. Married heterosexual couples have been serving together in the Peace Corps since its inception in 1961. Currently, 7 percent of Peace Corps assignments are filled by married volunteers serving together.

The Peace Corps requires formal documentation for all couples who want to serve, and same-sex domestic partners will be required to sign an affidavit before leaving for service that will act as verification of their relationship. The Peace Corps continually works with staff in host countries to identify placements that allow for safe and productive assignments.

Couples who serve together gain a unique perspective of host country customs and culture, but opportunities for couples are limited, as both applicants must apply at the same time and qualify for assignments at the same post. Many factors affect placements, including an applicant’s overall competitiveness, program availability, departure dates, and safety and medical accommodations. For any applicant, the number one factor in determining an assignment is the demand from host countries for skilled volunteers.

To learn more about serving in the Peace Corps as a same-sex couple, visit http://www.peacecorps.gov/learn/howvol/couplesfaqs/.

ILGA Launches Its 2013 Issue of the State-Sponsored Homophobia Report

ILGA_State_Sponsored_Homophobia_2013-coverGeneva, 15 May 2013 – The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) has launched its 2013 issue of the state-sponsored homophobia report, a world survey of laws on criminalisation, protection and recognition of same-sex love, from its newly opened office in Geneva.

“We are very proud of the format and the richness in information of this edition” said ILGA co-Secretaries General Renato Sabbadini and Gloria Careaga, “which make it easier to consult for anyone who wants to find out about legislation affecting – negatively or positively – lesbians and gays in the world today. The content of the report offers reasons for happiness and anger at the same time, as on the one hand we see how more and more countries adopt equal marriage and other pieces of progressive legislation, while on the other hand criminalisation on the basis of sexual orientation is maintained in 78 countries.”

“Moreover, an extremely worrying development is to be found in Russia, where the state does not criminalise same-sex sexual relations, but nevertheless sanctions and encourages homophobia by way of laws against LGBTI activists, preposterously defined by the Russian authorities as ‘homosexual propaganda’. It is no exaggeration” concluded Careaga and Sabbadini, “to say that the Russian State bears the moral responsibility for the homophobic murder of Vlad Tornovy in Volgograd few days ago. More needs to be done to fight homophobia, both in countries where being gay or lesbian is legal and in those where it is not.”

The report, edited by Lucas Paoli Itaborahy and Jingshu Zhu, has been presented at the City Hall of Geneva, at the presence of more than 30 UN Delegates.

Click here to download the report and here for the world map on lesbian and gay rights

For more information on the report and the related world map, click here.

International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia

International Day Against Homophobia and TransphobiaThis week we join with the worldwide LGBT community in celebrating IDAHO – the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.

IDAHO is less known in the U.S. than in many other countries around the world. Here in the U.S., LGBT communities have a greater focus on Gay Pride, a series of parades, concerts and other events, usually held in June, aimed at celebrating the unity and diversity of the LGBT movement. Pride reflects the heightened sense of LGBT community awareness and identification that has grown in the U.S. since the Stonewall Riots in New York City in 1969. It equally celebrates the “coming out” movement that continues to change our country’s understanding of LGBT fairness in such positive ways.

IDAHO carries a different focus. Celebrated on May 17 – the 1990 date when the World Health Organization removed homosexuality from its International Classification of Diseases – IDAHO is a call to conscience that the rights of LGBT people around the world remain under attack. For many LGBT communities worldwide, celebrating Gay Pride isn’t an option, or comes with great risk to personal safety and security. Being openly LGBT, in fact, can be an invitation to harassment and abuse, and even death. Here in the U.S., IDAHO can bring back the awareness that sexual orientation and gender identity are not only to be celebrated, but also require us to defend our rights. We can use IDAHO to redouble our commitment to ensure respect, fairness, and equality for LGBT people every where.

We are joined in that support with LGBT community organizations around the world, and we are proud that the White House, the Department of State, and a range of other foreign affairs agencies are supporting the cause of LGBT human and civil rights. We are also proud that many U.S. embassies around the world mark IDAHO and celebrate Pride as a sign of our country’s solidarity and support.

Related Content from our Organizational Council Members:

Amnesty International: Activists worldwide target homophobia in Jamaica, Ukraine and South Africa

Freedom House: International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia 2013

Human Rights Watch: LGBT Rights: The 2013 ‘Hall of Shame’ and Reflecting on the pursuit of equality and non-discrimination on LGBT Day

International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission: IDAHO 2013: Documenting Violence Against LBT People in Asia

HIAS’ report, “Invisible in the City,” examines protection gaps facing LGBTI refugees

Invisible in the City: Protection Gaps Facing Sexual Minority Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Urban Ecuador, Ghana, Israel and KenyaRemarks
Anne C. Richard
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration
Washington, DC
May 7, 2013

Thank you, Mark, and thank you to the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society for bringing us together today to celebrate this important research on LGBT refugees and asylum seekers. I’d also like to recognize Yiftach Millo, lead researcher and author of the study we are all here to officially launch, “Invisible in the City: Protection Gaps Experienced by Sexual Minority Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Urban Ecuador, Ghana, Israel, and Kenya.” I commend Mr. Millo and his team for their innovative work to help protect these refugees.

HIAS continues to be a leader in helping expose and address the barriers faced that confront lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender and intersex refugees. HIAS’s energy and vision is helping us all to find solutions to a real and persistent problem. Refugees and asylum seekers are already in a precarious position – they are at risk of exploitation, attack, and destitution. A refugee who is also part of a sexual minority is at even greater risk.

It has been over 20 years since Fidel Armanda Tobos Alfonso, a gay man from Cuba, was allowed to remain in the United States based on a judgement or understanding that he was at risk because of his sexual orientation. The Toboso-Alfonso decision paved the way for hundreds of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals as well as individuals with intersex conditions, to obtain refuge and asylum in the United States.

From the beginning of his Administration, President Obama has promoted the equal rights of LGBT people both at home and abroad. His Memorandum of December 2011 affirmed United States’s commitment to promoting the human rights of sexual minorities and specifically directed U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance agencies to protect vulnerable LGBT refugees and asylum seekers. Continue reading ‘HIAS’ report, “Invisible in the City,” examines protection gaps facing LGBTI refugees’

Human Rights Trends

2012 Human Rights Reports TrendsWith the recent release of the State Department’s Human Rights Reports for 2012 (released in April 2013), the Council for Global Equality has compiled information from the reports on nine problematic areas, ranging from police/state violence to transgender and lesbian-specific incidents and cases of reparative therapy. The trends that emerge reveal common patterns of abuse that are targeted against LGBT communities in all regions of the world.  Against this tableau of discrimination and violence, we have also listed some of the positive developments that are highlighted in the reporting this year, recognizing that the global struggle for full equality is nonetheless gaining ground in all regions. Download the compendium here.


Stay Informed

Subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 219 other followers

Follow us on Twitter

Categories