Archive for November, 2013

The IACHR creates Rapporteurship to address issues of Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, Gender Expression, and Body Diversity

Inter-American Commission on Human RightsWashington D.C. – On November 8, 2013, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) decided to create a Rapporteurship on the Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Persons (LGBTI) to give specialized attention to the work of the Inter-American Commission on the promotion and protection of the rights of LGBTI persons in the Americas. The Rapporteurship on the Rights of LGBTI persons will commence functioning on February 1, 2014, and will continue the work of the LGBTI Unit.

For several years now, the Commission has been receiving troubling information on the many forms of violence and discrimination faced by persons in the Americas, because of their perceived or actual sexual orientations, gender identities, and/or gender expressions, or because their bodies differ from what is considered female or male. To address these human rights violations, the IACHR created the LGBTI Unit in November 2011.

Since its installation, on February 15, 2012, the Unit has focused its efforts on four lines of work: (i) preparing thematic, regional or country reports on the situation of LGBTI persons in the Americas; (ii) developing standards on the interpretation of the inter-American human rights instruments with respect to sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and body diversity through the individual petition and case system; (iii) providing technical advice and input to states and political bodies of the Organization of American States; and (iv) monitoring the human rights situation of LGBTI persons and promoting the visibility of violations against their human rights. Continue Reading

Why Inclusion of Sexual Minorities Is Crucial to Gender Equality

Repost from The World Bank by Fabrice Houdart

In previous articles we discussed why inclusion of sexual minorities is instrumental to the World Bank’s goal of shared prosperity and constitutes smart economics. This piece focuses on how sexual minority inclusion is crucial to achieve progress on our gender equality agenda.

One of the background papers to the World Bank’s 2012 Gender World Development Report, “Masculinities, Social Change and Development,” alluded to Raewyn Connell’s theory of “hegemonic masculinity” as well as the strong correlation between heterosexism and gender inequalities.

Hegemonic masculinity is defined as the gender practice that guarantees the dominant social position of men and the subordinate social position of women. As summarized by Schifter and Madrigal (2000), it is the view that “Men, by virtue of their sex, [are] naturally strong, aggressive, assertive, and hardworking, whereas women [are] submissive, passive, vain, and delicate.” Hegemonic masculinity justifies the social, economic, cultural, and legal deprivations of women.

Its perpetuation is also widely understood to be the reason sodomy is criminalized in more than 76 countries, cross-dressing is criminalized in countless others, and hostility, discrimination, and violence against sexual minorities are often justified in patriarchal cultures. If masculinity is more valuable than femininity, then it is threatening for men to want to be women, display feminine characteristics, or adopt sexual practices that are not “manly.” Similarly, it is not acceptable for women to renounce male sexual partners.

The background paper highlighted the finding of the International Men and Gender Equality Survey (IMAGES) – a quantitative household survey carried out with men and women in seven countries in 2009-2010 – that homophobia is an unfortunate correlate of dominant masculinity. The more patriarchal the society, the more homophobic it is.

As an example, IMAGES data showed that 92% of respondents in India, which ranks 101st in the 2013 WEF Global Gender Gap, said they would be ashamed to have a gay son, and 89% of them said that being around homosexual men makes them uncomfortable. This echoes the findings of the Bank’s recent “Inclusion Matters” report which found that, for example, Georgia, which ranks 86th in the WEF Global Gender Gap, has the third-highest antipathy towards homosexuals as neighbors.  Finally, this is reflected in the latest World Values Survey, which finds a high correlation between attitudes toward the superiority of male political leadership and attitudes against homosexuality. Continue reading ‘Why Inclusion of Sexual Minorities Is Crucial to Gender Equality’

Transgender Day of Remembrance Reminds Society That Trans Lives Are Valuable

Repost from The Huffington Post Blog – by Eòghann Renfroe

Transgender Day of Remembrance is a day for all of us to come together to memorialize and honor the lives of those individuals who have been killed in the last year because of their gender identity or expression.

The official day started 15 years ago, when a candlelight vigil for Rita Hester, a trans woman who had been murdered, led to the original “Remembering Our Dead” project, a list, compiled every year, of the people who had been killed because of anti-transgender violence. Every year on Transgender Day of Remembrance, communities across the country and throughout the world come together to read the names of the people taken from us by violence, light a candle in their memory, and pledge that their lives will not be forgotten. In the face of pervasive discrimination, harassment, and violence, it is a way for us to show that trans lives are valuable. Continue Reading

For a list of memorial events being held globally visit International Transgender Day of Remembrance

Read remarks by Secretary of State John Kerry on Transgender Day of Remembrance

Read a blog posting from USAID, “A Lesson in Holistic Care: What I Learned from Working with Transgender Women and Health Providers in the LAC Region

View a photo essay titled, “16 Beautiful Portraits Of Humans Who Happen to Be Trans

You can also follow #tdor on Twitter for more information and stories.

Open Letter to President Putin on Russia’s Discriminatory Anti-LGBT Laws

Washington DC, November 15, 2013

Dear President Putin:

Like many of our generation, we have applauded Russia’s 20-year turn toward democracy, confident in the prospect it lays not only for closer relations between our countries, but for the freer and more prosperous future that the Russian people deserve.  In that light, we write to express grave concern at recent legislation – signed by you into law, or otherwise under consideration in the Duma – that demonizes and discriminates against Russian citizens who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT).

These laws are tearing apart the lives of Russian LGBT citizens and their families. They also impact Russian and foreign citizens, organizations and businesses that want the best for your country, and that are committed to building partnerships that are in your interests.

The range of legislation to which we refer is broad; among other things, it restricts public gatherings; classifies as “foreign agents” those who receive funding from abroad; denies orphaned and abandoned children the opportunity to be brought up in families by individuals with the commitment, the resources, and the love needed to raise them; and makes it a crime to speak openly or provide information about homosexuality. We are also extremely concerned about pending legislation that threatens to remove children from same-sex parents – the homes they’ve known, the families they love.

These discriminatory, anti-LGBT laws call into question the democratic path that Russia ostensibly has chosen.  They disregard the obligation carried by all democratic societies to respect and protect minority populations of any kind.  And they deny not only the promise of equality under the law, but the fundamental freedoms of speech, assembly, and association that are core to any democratic system.

Some proponents of these laws have sought to justify them for the purpose of “protecting children.” These ideas are based on false “science,” deliberately erroneous claims, and clear bias. Homosexuality and pedophilia are not, in fact, related. Modern science and the medical establishment consider homosexuality as a statistically normal human sexual variation. Pedophilia, on the other hand, is a crime, and is not a factor of one’s sexual orientation.

We strongly support child protection legislation that penalizes inappropriate sexual conduct with minors.  However, such legislation cannot single out one minority population, as Russia’s laws now do.  By inaccurately placing pedophilia at the door of LGBT citizens, Russia’s laws harm rather than protect LGBT youth, and have a negative impact on broader non-discrimination efforts within society.  Further, these laws create a climate of fear and repression that leaves LGBT children, and even those merely suspected of being so, vulnerable to physical and mental abuse, while substantially diminishing their educational and employment-related opportunities and achievements.  In this manner, these laws are harmful to children and society in equal measure. They also provoke increased violence against LGBT Russian youth and adults, the rise of which should be a matter of concern to you, as President, as it is to us.

To date, the media has viewed Russia’s repressive laws largely through the prism of the upcoming Sochi Olympics.  The reason for this is clear:  the Olympic Charter proclaims that “…any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise, is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement.”  Russia’s new laws squarely defy the Charter; its role as host, while failing to amend or abrogate these laws, cheapens Olympic ideals.

However, concern about Russia’s laws is not limited to their inconsistency with Olympic principles – nor, indeed, to the narrow question of how Russia will treat LGBT foreigners who participate in or attend the Sochi Olympics.  The fundamental question raised by Russia’s anti-LGBT course is why Russia treats its own LGBT citizens with such disregard for democratic principles – and why you and Russian legislators have chosen, as part of your legacy, to foster a climate of hostility toward LGBT people that has made those citizens so unwelcome on their own soil.

You have made public assurances that all visitors are welcome to Sochi, regardless of sexual orientation.  These assurances, however, cannot be taken at face value without a more detailed understanding of how Russia’s anti-LGBT laws apply to a range of specific questions.  For instance:

  • Can Olympic athletes or spectators be arrested or otherwise sanctioned for wearing “Gay Pride” or similarly themed clothing or accessories at the Games, or clothing items/accessories containing an LGBT-related insignia?
  • Can these same athletes or spectators sport officially licensed rainbow pins or other apparel from the 2012 London Summer Olympics?
  • Can athletes or spectators carry Gay Pride flags?
  • Should two individuals of the same sex either hold hands or kiss in public, would that be seen as contravening Russian law?
  • What would happen should a person speak in favor of the equal treatment of LGBT persons – whether publicly or in what was intended to be a private conversation?
  • Can a parent of an LGBT athlete – Russian or foreign – speak affirmatively of his/her child, including with reference to that athlete’s sexual orientation or gender identity, in pre- or post-competition interviews?
  • Can athletes or spectators distribute pamphlets concerning the human rights of all individuals, including those in “non-traditional sexual relationships,” as a reflection of both their beliefs and their rights to freedoms of opinion, speech and expression?
  • Can media coverage of the Games include examination of Russia’s discriminatory legal climate directed against LGBT people?
  • Might a reporter asking questions related to the law be accused of violating the law?
  • Would the public dissemination of same-sex attraction (e.g., through a gay or lesbian couple holding hands) by television, newspaper or internet potentially subject the media outlet to legal response by Russian authorities?
  • Would capture and public dissemination of LGBT insignia by the media, including the internet, in the course of reporting on the Games (or subsequently), subject that outlet to legal response?
  • Are private sector companies free to include same-sex couples in their advertising related to sponsorship of the Games?  Are they permitted to include pro-LGBT messages of solidarity in their advertising?
  • Would children who have been adopted by lesbian or gay individuals or couples be allowed to enter the country?
  • Could a child be taken from a couple if that couple either was or appeared to be gay or lesbian?
  • Is there a distinction in how any of these scenarios would be handled (a) within the Olympic Village, (b) in the broader Olympic security zones in and around Sochi, or (c) outside of those zones?
  • Would the response to any of these questions differ depending on the citizenship of the individual(s)?  Would foreign nationals be treated differently, inasmuch as the law specifies different penalties for foreigners?

To be clear, these questions deserve response before the Sochi Olympics, so that all of those who support the Olympics – whether athletes, spectators, sponsors, media, or prospective national delegation members – can have certainty as to how these laws might impact their participation, or indeed their prospective travel to Sochi.  Importantly, however, these questions must be answered with respect not only to foreign visitors, but to Russia’s citizens as well.  They also must be answered not only with respect to the specific period embraced by the Sochi Olympics, but thereafter.

We ask you, as President, to ensure that Russian officials clearly address, with a sense of urgency, each of the scenarios noted above.  But we also ask that you take on the leadership role of pressing for these laws to be repealed in order that LGBT citizens of your country can enjoy the same rights and expectations as any of their heterosexual fellow citizens, and so as to rein in the hostility directed against LGBT Russians that these laws have entailed.

Finally, we ask that you address these questions with a sense of urgency, not only in view of the rapid approach of the Sochi Olympics, but with regard to the distraction that these laws pose to our shared interest in a broad and stable partnership between our countries.

Sincerely,

Mark Bromley        
Council Chair      

Julie Dorf          
Senior Advisor

Michael Guest
Senior Advisor

Malawi High Court weighs overturning anti-gay law

Repost from Erasing 76 Crimes

Malawi’s anti-gay law faced a new challenge this week as the Malawi High Court decided to review the constitutionality of the country’s ban on  homosexual intercourse.

That law has been on hold since November 2012, when Justice Minister Ralph Kasambara has called for a moratorium on arrests and prosecutions related to homosexual activity.  He later denied reports about that decision, but no arrests have been reported since then.

Earlier in 2012, President Joyce Banda called for the repeal of the law, but she later announced that Malawian legislators were not ready to go along with her on that plan. Continue Reading

What We Need From the Next Head of PEPFAR

President’s Emergency Plan on AIDS ReliefDr. Eric Goosby stepped down from his role as U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator this month. As the White House and the State Department consider Dr. Goosby’s replacement, the Council believes there are some qualities that are essential in his successor.

The Council and its member organizations strongly support the President’s Emergency Plan on AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) – not only for health policy reasons, but for the broader reflection of fundamental U.S. values that PEPFAR offers. In that respect, we believe it crucial that PEPFAR programs be fully inclusive of most-at-risk populations, including men who have sex with men (MSM). We are grateful that  the Obama Administration has embraced that principle by expanding PEPFAR programming to include MSM – a legacy that, in turn, is elevating the importance of enabling legal environments for MSM prevention and treatment programs.

The nominee for Dr. Goosby’s replacement obviously must reflect experience in, and knowledge of, HIV/AIDS policy. Given the cross-agency nature of our tools to fight HIV/AIDS, however, we believe it critically important that he or she also demonstrate proven abilities to lead a complex and multi-tiered interagency health policy team.

Moreover, the new Coordinator will carry important leadership responsibilities in ensuring the consistency and integrity of PEPFAR programs. This must include clear commitment to meeting the needs of most-at-risk populations, including LGBT individuals, in each country served by PEPFAR. It equally must include persistence in seeking host country understanding of, and shared commitment to, this goal.

The Council remains concerned at indications that some PEPFAR implementers may have inappropriately blurred the distinction between their personal views on homosexuality and their responsibility, as an implementing organization of U.S. policy, not to undercut broad U.S. government policy goals that support both sound HIV/AIDS prevention and LGBT rights. We wish to see a Coordinator who will prioritize the integrity and effectiveness of our programs in this respect, even while respecting First Amendment rights. We, in turn, will join in holding the new Coordinator publicly accountable for effective oversight in investigating and responding to any alleged abuse.

Finally, the person selected as Coordinator has an essential role in communicating to foreign leaders, and indeed to American and foreign publics, the critical importance of PEPFAR’s life-saving programs, and the need for those programs to embrace all populations.

The new Global AIDS Coordinator can anchor a strong legacy not only of humanitarian attention to a critical health challenge, but also to insistence that our global health policies be fully inclusive, in reflection of American values. The Council for Global Equality is hopeful that there will be a speedy announcement of Dr. Goosby’s replacement, and that that announcement will reflect these inclusive values that are critical to the direction in which our PEPFAR programs must go.

Human Rights Affirming Remarks During The Peace and Sport International Forum

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s statement during the 7th Peace and Sport International Forum in Monaco.

I am pleased to send greetings to all participants at the 7th Peace and Sport International Forum in Monaco. I especially thank H.S.H. Prince Albert II of Monaco for his invaluable advocacy on this issue, and Mr. Joël Bouzou for his dedicated leadership as President and Founder of Peace and Sport.

As you meet, the United Nations General Assembly is set to pass its Olympic Truce Resolution ahead of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. Traditionally, this resolution expresses the collective reaffirmation of United Nations Member States of the contribution sport can make to our common goal of peace.

Earlier this year, the General Assembly declared 6 April as the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace. This is a clear recognition sport can contribute to human rights and development, erasing barriers and promoting solidarity around the world.  This new commemoration on the international calendar should further promote the value of sport as a tool for development and peace. I hope all of you will help organize celebrations of the Day.

In my travels around the world, I have seen first-hand the power of sport to unite people, raise awareness and resources, and inspire individuals, particularly youth. From makeshift village fields to big-city arenas sport reminds us of our common humanity.

That is why I must take this opportunity to issue a resounding denunciation of any form of discrimination in the world of sport. We must adamantly reject all attempts to divide people or advance intolerant views in any athletic competition. As we carry out our efforts to promote peace through sport, let us remember to uphold and defend universal human rights. When we recognize that all people are born free and equal, we can create a more peaceful world.

I thank you for your support and wish you great success.

Statement from Ambassador Elizabeth Cousens, U.S. Representative to ECOSOC, at a General Assembly meeting on Sport for Peace and Development

The United States is pleased to cosponsor the resolution entitled “Building a peaceful and better world through sport and the Olympic ideal.” We especially want to draw attention to the language in the resolution “calling upon host countries to promote social inclusion without discrimination of any kind.” This is the first time that language of this kind appears in a resolution on the Olympic Truce, and it sends a powerful message highlighting the role that sport plays for all people. This phrase emphasizes the importance of inclusion and participation of all people in sporting activity, regardless of identity, including persons of different sexual orientations and gender identities.

In its recitation of the fundamental principles of Olympism, the Olympic Charter states “Every individual must have the possibility of practicing sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.”

Many of the most inspirational moments in the Olympics have come through the ever-broadening participation of persons of various backgrounds in the Games, including: Native-American Jim Thorpe’s decathlon and pentathlon gold medals in the 1912 Olympics; the four gold medals African-American Jesse Owens won at the 1936 Berlin Olympics; the three 1960 gold medals of Wilma Rudolph, an African-American woman stricken with polio at age four whose childhood doctors feared she may never walk without wearing a leg brace; and the recent inspirational performance of South African Caster Semenya, who faced unprecedented challenges and unfair gender testing in 2009 only to return proudly and medal in the London Games, where her teammates selected her for the honor of serving as her nation’s flag bearer during the opening ceremony.

Part of what makes sport so important is that it promotes inclusion, bringing together people of different ages, races, religions, social status, disabilities, sexual orientation, and gender identity. Sport embraces all segments of society and is instrumental in empowering people of diverse backgrounds, while fostering tolerance and respect for all people, no matter what they look like, where they come from, where they worship, or whom they love.

Thank you, Mr. President.


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