Archive for July, 2013

Civil Society Groups Condemn Increasing Homophobic and Transphobic Violence in the Caribbean

The Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition (CVC) and other civil society groups in the region are condemning increasing homophobic and transphobic violence in the Caribbean.GEORGETOWN, Guyana — The Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition (CVC) and other civil society groups in the region are condemning increasing homophobic and transphobic violence in the Caribbean. CVC and its partners are deeply concerned by a stream of reports coming from Caribbean civil society organizations about incidents of violence towards lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.

The groups are disturbed by the anti-gay march held by evangelical churches last week in Haiti, and the alleged violence towards LGBT people afterwards.

“We are truly saddened by reports from Jamaica last week that a gender non-conforming 17-year-old was mob attacked and stabbed to death in Montego Bay. CVC extends it condolences to the families and friends of those affected by this hate-fueled violence,” the group said in a statement.

CVC said these tragic events are not isolated acts but instead a reflection of systematic discrimination and violence experienced by Caribbean LGBT people, particularly the most visible and vulnerable.

Organizations such as United and Strong in St Lucia, United Belize Advocacy Movement in Belize, and Jamaica Forum for Lesbians All-Sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG) in Jamaica, Trans Always Friends (TRANSSA) and the Community of Trans-Transvestite Dominican Sex Workers (CONTRAVETD) in the Dominican Republic often have to deal with similar threats, harassment and violence towards their communities because of their sexual orientation, gender identity and expression.

“This violence is a consequence of fundamentalist and hateful discourses towards LGBT communities and is likely to be replicated if urgent action is not taken,” the CVC said.

“We call on our allies involved in Caribbean struggles for social justice – progressive faith leaders, trade unions, feminist organizations, and civil liberties groups – to join us in denouncing and challenging fundamentalist views which fuel violence towards LGBT people in our region. Hate speech and extremism have no place in our Caribbean democracies, where resistance against discrimination, unity, and strength in diversity are hallmarks of our shared history. These hateful views do not reflect the teachings of the region’s religions that variously emphasize respect for diversity, non-violence, justice and unconditional love as their cornerstone values,” the statement continued.

The group demanded greater protection from Caribbean governments for all LGBT people, legal frameworks that guarantee human rights protection, and investment in mechanisms that effectively respond to violence. It also called on Caribbean states to ensure that in no circumstance is the right to freedom of expression allowed to endanger the right to life, liberty and security of person, and to the right to privacy.

“Without challenging fundamentalist discourses which undermine dignity and rights, and continuing to foster a culture of human rights, Caribbean states cannot expect to develop, and we as Caribbean citizens cannot expect a better future for our families or children,” CVC said.

“We stand in solidarity with all Caribbean civil society organizations and movements working towards more just and equal societies, where everyone’s rights and dignity are respected,” the statement concluded.

http://www.caribbeannewsnow.com/topstory-Fundamentalism-has-no-place-in-Caribbean-societies%2C-says-community-group-17015.html

Free and Equal: A Global Public Education Campaign Combatting Homophobia and Transphobia

United Nations Free and EqualOn 16 July, human rights defender and journalist Eric Lembembe was brutally tortured and murdered in Cameroon. Cases like these are reported far too often throughout the world.

A 2011 report by the UN Human Rights Office found an alarming pattern of brutal violence and widespread discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in all regions. In 76 countries, adult same-sex relationships are criminalized, exposing lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals to the risk of arrest, imprisonment, torture, and even, in five countries, the death penalty.

While attitudes are shifting and many Governments are slowly making progress implementing reforms including anti-discrimination and hate crime laws, more work remains to be done, in all regions, to tackle hate-motivated violence and discrimination against LGBT people.

At a press event in Cape Town, South Africa, UN Human Rights Chief Navi Pillay, together with Archbishop Desmond Tutu and South African Constitutional Court Justice Edwin Cameron, launched Free & Equal, an unprecedented global public education campaign to promote greater respect for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people everywhere.

Speaking at the launch, Pillay argued that eradicating discrimination of any kind required more than just changes in laws and policies; it took a change in people’s hearts and minds as well.

“Changing attitudes is never easy,” she said. “But it has happened on other issues and it is happening already in many parts of the world on this one. It begins with often difficult conversations. With this campaign, we want to help start and inform millions of conversations among people around the world and across the ideological spectrum.”

In addition to engaging fact sheets and articles, Free & Equal will generate a stream of creative content – including short videos, infographics and testimonies –all designed to dispel common misconceptions and negative stereotypes and encourage people to look at the lives of LGBT people through the eyes of LGBT people and their families. All campaign materials will be made available on the campaign’s website, UNFE.org.

UN Human Rights OfficePillay described Nelson Mandela as a great source of inspiration for the campaign and recalled his faith in education as the best weapon against prejudice. “He used to say that people are not born hating one another; they learn to hate,” Pillay said. “And that if people can learn to hate, they can be taught to love—that love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

The Free & Equal campaign was conceived and developed by the UN Human Rights Office and is implemented in partnership with the Purpose Foundation—a non-profit organization that develops global social-media driven campaigns on human rights issues.

Several global celebrities have already pledged their support for the campaign including musician Ricky Martin, South African singer Yvonne Chaka Chaka, Bollywood actress Celina Jaitly, Brazilian novelist Paulo Coelho, and Brazilian singer Daniela Mercury.

You can learn more about Free & Equal and sign up to receive campaign materials and updates by visiting the campaign website at UNFE.org, or follow the campaign at facebook.com/free.equal or via Twitter @free_equal.

The BAI denounces religious leaders’ march against Haiti’s LGBT community

Press Statement from Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI)

(Port-au-Prince, July 17, 2013) – As countries around the world acknowledge the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals to marry and be free from violence and discrimination, religious leaders in Haiti are organizing a march against homosexuality.

The Bureau des Avocats Internationaux, which works to protect the human rights of poor people, stands with Kouraj, an LGBT rights organization, to denounce the Haitian Coalition of Religious and Moral Organizations’ call for a march against homosexuality, scheduled for July 19, 2013.

During a nationally televised press conference on June 25, 2013, the Haitian Coalition of Religious and Moral Organizations condemned “all laws giving support to gay marriages” and chanted, “Nou pa dakò! Nou pa dakò!”  (we are “not okay” with gays).  “Basically speaking, God does not agree and nor do we because we rely on God, and because we saw the misfortunes it brought to Sodom and Gomorrah. So, because we do not want to experience the same misfortunes, we are compelled to take a position,” said the president of the religious coalition. The coalition includes the Protestant Federation of Haiti.

Homosexuality and transgenderism remain taboo within Haitian society, and as a result, the lives of many LGBT individuals are characterized by secrecy, isolation, discrimination, and violence. Stigmatization and discrimination against LGBT individuals have become normalized. Some Haitian politicians and public figures allege that homosexuality is foreign to Haitian culture, and by implication, LGBT rights are therefore irrelevant.

By equating the practice of homosexuality to unnatural practices and a lack of education, the religious leaders who have called for this march are undermining the work that has been done to increase tolerance of the LGBT community. Similarly, claims that homosexuality is a disease aggravates violence against the LGBT community.

LGBT groups cannot address the stigma of HIV/AIDS as long as Haitians are unable to talk freely about the patterns of behaviour within the country that are contributing to the spread of the disease. Kouraj would like to counsel openly to young LGBT people about the dangers of promiscuity and unprotected sex, but they cannot do so if LGBT people are afraid of living openly and honestly within their own communities.

LGBT Haitians are constantly threatened in person, on the Internet and across many platforms for simply being who they are. LGBT individuals are frequently harassed by police and arrested for what appears to amount to criminalization of their basic identity. There have been increasing reports of beatings against gay men and gang rapes against lesbian women.

Discrimination against Haiti’s LGBT community is in violation of the rights guaranteed by the 1987 Haitian Constitution. The Constitution guarantees all Haitians the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, consistent with the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The constitution also recognises the elimination of discrimination and the acceptance of “the community of language and culture” as essential to strengthening national unity.  Article 17 guarantees the political and civil rights of all Haitians, and Article 18 guarantees equality before the law. These articles create an obligation on the Haitian Government to act to protect any Haitians whose rights may be violated by the actions of other groups.

We call upon:

  • The Government to protect the Constitutional right to life and dignity of LGBT individuals without discrimination;
  • Religious leaders to cease and desist from mobilizing against the LGBT community, which undermines the rights of their fellow Haitians to live in freedom; and
  • The general public to come out in support of their LGBT brothers, sisters, daughters and sons, who are only seeking the right to live in the same peace and tranquillity that they enjoy.

Related Content:

Groups Condemn Threats Against Haiti’s Gay Society (AP)

Processing the Murder of Eric Ohena Lembembe

Eric Ohena Lembembe

Photo: Erasing 76 Crimes

Repost from The Daily Beast

An outspoken voice for gay rights was tortured and killed in Cameroon. Neela Ghoshal on her colleague Eric Lembembe’s legacy—and how the movement lives on.

Eric Ohena Lembembe didn’t turn up to a meeting he had organized. Members of Camfaids—a group that defends the rights of LGBT people and those infected with and affected by HIV/AIDS—went to his house Monday evening after failing to reach him by phone all weekend. They found the door padlocked from the outside; through a window, they could see Lembembe’s body on the bed. When the police broke the door down, they found that Lembembe’s body bore signs of torture. His neck and his feet were broken, a friend told me. His face, hands, and feet had been burned with a clothes iron.

I had last seen Lembembe in March, on a sticky, humid evening in Yaoundé. We had released a joint report on human-rights abuses against people accused of homosexual conduct in Cameroon two days earlier. The head of the gendarmerie—Cameroon’s military police—had finally agreed to meet with us. We wanted to raise the many cases we had documented of arbitrary arrests, ill treatment, and torture of people alleged to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. Continue Reading

Related Content: 

Prominent gay rights activist killed in Cameroon (AP)

Statement from the U.S. Department of State on the Murder of Cameroonian LGBT and AIDS Activist Eric Ohena Lembembe

Clear-eyed Support for LGBT Rights an Important Component of U.S. Human Rights Policy

Secretary John Kerry GLIFAA Pride June 2013

Secretary of State, John F. Kerry, speaking at the GLIFAA Pride Event June 2013

At last month’s Pride celebration at the State Department, Secretary of State John Kerry made clear that he shares his predecessor’s clear-eyed support for LGBT rights as an important component of U.S. human rights policy (read a transcript or watch a video of Kerry’s speech).  Referring to “a moral obligation to stand in pride with LGBT individuals and advocates,” Kerry called for “using our tools of development and diplomacy” to achieve LGBT rights abroad.  He also underscored that “greater inclusion and protection of human rights, including those for LGBT people and for their communities, leads to greater stability, greater prosperity, and greater protection for the rights of human beings.

Coming together as a strong and unified coalition of 22 leading advocacy organizations, the Council has written to Secretary Kerry, commending his remarks as well as his strong Senate record on LGBT equality.  We also stressed that his personal leadership will be critical to anchoring American support for globally fair LGBT human rights policies in three key policy areas.

  • First, in global health policy, the Council is deeply concerned that some overseas PEPFAR implementers inappropriately may have allowed their personal views on homosexuality to undercut the broader, holistic public health policy goals that their program implementation is intended to support.  Secretary Kerry can play a pivotal role in strengthening our HIV/AIDS impact by directing the Global AIDS Coordinator and other international health policy actors to ensure that contractors – like counterpart government employees – are required to distinguish clearly between their private views, when expressed, and fidelity to the public policy goals they are charged to advance.
  • Second, this year’s State Department Human Rights Report to Congress underscores that hate crimes directed at LGBT people – often with the complicity of host government authorities – are a significant challenge to human rights in every corner of the world.  Under Secretary Kerry’s leadership, the State Department can partner with the FBI and the Department of Justice to shape international law enforcement training programs that drive home the responsibility of law enforcement personnel to protect LGBT people from violence and hate crimes and to collect data on hate violence to help target government reponses.  The Secretary equally can leave an important legacy by making this protection agenda a prominent part of his personal engagement with world leaders.
  • Third, our attention to LGBT human and civil rights needs abroad requires hand-in-glove cooperation between State, on the one hand, and all foreign affairs agencies charged with advancing our development policy goals.  Secretary Kerry can engage directly with his counterparts in relevant agencies to ensure that our policy and program goals are more tightly meshed.  These programs increasingly should be brought into alignment with World Bank and other international financial institution resources, for maximum impact.

A bipartisan Congressional letter addressing concerns raised in the 2012 Human Rights Reports was also sent to Secretary Kerry in June. In the letter, a group of 93 Members of Congress asked that the U.S. Department of State brief Congressional staff on programs to address inappropriate actions by government officials vis-à-vis LGBT citizens. The letter also called for dialogue at the highest levels with governments that are complicit in LGBT-related human rights abuse. You can read the full letter here

The Administration can make powerful progress toward an LGBT-fair world in its second term.  We look to Secretary Kerry, as America’s senior diplomat and senior agency leader, to exert the leadership needed to empower that progress.

Related Content:

Presidential Proclamation — Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month, 2013

Statement by the President on the Supreme Court Ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act

Remarks by President Obama and President Sall of the Republic of Senegal at Joint Press Conference

Advancing the Human Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Persons Worldwide: A State Department Priority

statedeptlogo-webFact Sheet
Bureau of Public Affairs
June 28, 2013

“As Secretary, I join with my colleagues at our embassies, consulates and USAID missions around the world in saying no matter where you are and no matter who you love, we stand with you.”
— Secretary of State John Kerry

The U.S. Department of State champions the protection of the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals worldwide as an Obama Administration foreign policy priority. By supporting the inherent dignity of each person, the United States leads by example and advances our values.

LGBT Rights a Foreign Policy Cornerstone

Advancing equality for LGBT persons is fundamental to promoting democracy and human rights throughout the world. Inclusive societies are better international partners and better neighbors.

Department Tools

The State Department uses a wide range of diplomatic and assistance tools to press for the elimination of violence and discrimination against LGBT persons worldwide:

  • Countering Laws that Criminalize LGBT Status
    The State Department works through U.S. embassies, civil society, and multilateral agencies to encourage countries to repeal or reform laws that criminalize LGBT status. To guide this effort, the Department created a resource toolkit for all U.S. embassies and established a rapid response mechanism to address emerging crises in particular countries.

Research and Resources for U.S. Embassies
The Department’s annual Human Rights Report includes information on the human rights situation for LGBT persons in every country. Region-specific LGBT strategies have been developed that provide U.S. embassies with analysis, resources, and public outreach strategies for engagement with government officials and civil society.

Embassy Programs and Personal Engagement
In 2012, nearly 90 U.S. missions held Pride-related events. Already in 2013, Ambassadors and embassy staff have participated in Pride marches and IDAHO celebrations around the world and provided safe spaces for LGBT organizations to connect with one another and the broader human rights advocacy community.

The Global Equality Fund

The Department launched the Global Equality Fund (GEF) in December 2011 to advance the human rights of LGBT persons worldwide. In partnership with a number of countries, corporations, and foundations, the GEF has funded emergency and long-term programs to protect the human rights of LGBT persons in over 25 countries. The Fund provides human rights defenders with legal representation, security, and, when necessary, relocation support.

Since 2010, the Department has provided critical assistance to more than 70 LGBT defenders and advocates around the world.

Consular and Travel Assistance

  • The Bureau of Consular Affairs has streamlined procedures and simplified requirements for changing the sex listed on a transgender American’s passport.
  • The Department provides travel information specific to LGBT persons on travel.state.gov, including information about attitudes, harassment, or arrests important for LGBT travelers.

Department Personnel Policy

The State Department announced extension of the full range of legally available benefits and allowances to same-sex domestic partners of Foreign Service staff serving abroad.

  • The Department enables same-sex couples to obtain passports under the names recognized by their state through their marriages or civil unions.
  • The Department’s equal employment opportunity policy includes protections against discriminatory treatment of employees and job applicants based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

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