Archive for December, 2013

Rep. Eliot Engel Statement on Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Bill

“To be clear, the passage of this legislation is a stain on the human rights record of Uganda, and appears to be part of a troubling trend of legislation intended to undermine basic human rights in that country.”

Washington, D.C. – Rep. Eliot Engel, the senior Democratic Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, released the following statement regarding the Ugandan parliament’s approval of a bill which would criminalize consensual behavior between adults and outlaw the promotion of LGBT rights.

“I am deeply disturbed by the Ugandan parliament’s approval of a so-called ‘anti-homosexuality bill,’ which would in effect criminalize consensual behavior between adults and outlaw the promotion of LGBT rights. To be clear, the passage of this legislation is a stain on the human rights record of Uganda, and appears to be part of a troubling trend of legislation intended to undermine basic human rights in that country. I call on President Museveni to reject this discriminatory bill and make clear that Uganda respects the rights of all its citizens.”

Uganda Passes Odious Anti-LGBT Law

cge-reblog-ugandadec20The Council for Global Equality joins our colleagues in Uganda and around the world in condemning the adoption today of a harsh, anti-gay law that sentences LGBT Ugandans to life in prison. President obama condemned an earlier version of the bill — substantially quite similar to the bill that now has passed — in simple and forceful terms as “odious.” With global condemnation and the weight of history in the balance, we urge Uganda’s president to reject this assault on the fundamental rights of his fellow citizens.  Passage of this legislation is all the more shocking because a sweeping, anti-gay law also moved forward this week in Nigeria, while Russia continues its own legal assault on its LGBT citizens in advance of the Sochi Olympics.  At year’s end, when people around the world are celebrating the blessings of the year past and the promise of the year to come, we mourn that such intolerance prevails.

Related Content:

Ugandan MPs pass life in jail anti-homosexual law: BBC News

Uganda Passes Tough New Bill Against Homosexuality: Associated Press

Uganda’s “anti-homosexuality” bill will have a disastrous impact on country’s HIV response: by Retuers

 

Advocates for LGBT Equality Launch Freedom Fund to Support LGBT Russians

Russia Freedom FundThe Arcus Foundation, the Council for Global Equality and the Open Society Foundations announced the establishment of the Russia Freedom Fund in November to provide financial support directly to groups working to end discrimination and violence in Russia based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

The Fund was created with the support of numerous other human rights advocates in response to the recent and dramatic expansion of discrimination and violence directed at LGBT people in Russia, following anti-propaganda and other legislation passed earlier this year.

Learn more about the fund and donate here.

President Obama Announces Presidential Delegations to the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games

President Barack Obama today announced the designation of Presidential Delegations to the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russian Federation.

Presidential Delegation to the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games

The Opening Ceremony of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russian Federation will be held on February 7, 2014. The delegation will attend athletic events, meet with U.S. athletes, and attend the Opening Ceremony.

The Honorable Janet A. Napolitano, President of the University of California, will lead the delegation.

The Honorable Michael A. McFaul, United States Ambassador to the Russian Federation.

The Honorable Robert L. Nabors, Assistant to the President and Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy.

The Honorable Billie Jean King, Member of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition, Member of the International Tennis Hall of Fame, and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Mr. Brian A. Boitano, Olympic gold medalist, figure skating.

Presidential Delegation to the Closing Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games

The Closing Ceremony of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russian Federation will be held on February 23, 2014. The delegation will attend athletic events, meet with U.S. athletes, and attend the Closing Ceremony.

The Honorable William J. Burns, Deputy Secretary of State, will lead the delegation.

The Honorable Michael A. McFaul, United States Ambassador to the Russian Federation.

Ms. Bonnie Blair, five-time Olympic gold medalist and one-time bronze medalist, speed skating.

Ms. Caitlin Cahow, Olympic silver medalist and bronze medalist, women’s ice hockey.

Dr. Eric Heiden, five-time Olympic gold medalist, speed skating.

India’s Gay-Rights Movement Rises Up After Supreme Court Criminalizes Homosexuality

Repost from Time

A controversial Supreme Court ruling on Wednesday morning that reinstated an archaic colonial law criminalizing homosexuality incited outrage among activists and gay-rights supporters in India. Hundreds gathered at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi’s popular protest hub, to protest the ruling. A truly mixed crowd, many of the protesters were not from the LGBT community. They came in hordes from universities and colleges to champion civil liberties. “This is not about homosexuality but about democratic rights,” said Samita Raj, a 19-year-old student at the protest. “And the right to be.”

The mood at Jantar Mantar resembled a different moment last year, when the youth of India had congregated to demand justice for the gang rape and murder of a young medical intern. It was a comforting sign that from a fringe issue, India’s gay movement has become the subject of mainstream debate and mass support. “Today when I speak to young people in colleges, they say, ‘We know how you feel.’ And that’s a huge achievement for the movement,” Gautam Bhan, a 33-year-old gay-rights activist, told TIME. “The ruling cannot set aside the gains we have made in the last decade, especially after 2009.” The Supreme Court in Wednesday’s ruling had said that changing a law was the responsibility of the government.

Whether the Delhi High Court had overstepped its mandate four years back is a matter of debate. Its historic judgment in 2009, which decriminalized homosexuality in the country, was something of a watershed moment for gay rights in India. Many more young people had come out of the closet. Harish Iyer, a Mumbai-based equal-rights activist, says there was a more than 100% increase in people wanting to come out of the closet after 2009. Iyer says that before 2009 he used to receive around two distress calls a week from people wanting to come out. Now he receives around six calls a day. “What are you doing now? Pushing them right back in?” he asks. “It’s not going to work. People who are out will be out louder and stronger.”

The other surprising takeaway from the ruling was the unexpected show of solidarity from the Indian government. Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh said the ruling flew in the face of a “modern liberal India.”

“The high court had wisely removed an archaic, repressive and unjust law that infringed on the basic human rights enshrined in our constitution,” Congress chief Sonia Gandhi said in a statement. “This constitution has given us a great legacy, a legacy of liberalism and openness, that enjoin us to combat prejudice and discrimination of any kind.”

Law Minister Kapil Sibal, after an initial noncommittal reaction, later tweeted that the government was considering its options to restore the 2009 verdict. “It gives us great hope,” says Anjali Gopalan, founder and executive director of the Naz Foundation, an Indian nonprofit that works on HIV-AIDS and sexual health, who had filed the original lawsuit in the Delhi High Court. “A lot of young people have come out of the closet post-2009. We can’t push them back in.”

While politicians and activists mull their options, India’s LGBT community is emerging stronger from the ruling. “We feel much emboldened by the fact that we are a heterogeneous crowd now,” says Iyer. “Also, what do we have to lose now? You have pushed me down so low that from here on I can only look upwards.”

Related Content:

The Times of India “Gay sex verdict: Govt considers options, Sonia disappointed with SC ruling” http://bit.ly/1iZqsG7

BBC News India “Indian media outrage over gay sex ruling” http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-india-25344735

Aljezeera “India gay sex verdict sparks outrage”  http://aje.me/JjZiKo

Reuters “U.N.: Indian ban on gay sex violates international law” http://trib.in/1bZTWjd

The New York Times “For Gay Rights Advocates, Jubilation of Four Years Turns to Shock”  http://nyti.ms/1cEZPkn

India Supreme Court Upholds Sodomy Law

Repost from BuzzFeed by J. Lester Feder

The top court in the world’s second-largest nation says it’s up to parliament to decide on undoing the law criminalizing same-sex intercourse. This is “a major setback to LGBT rights,” says the legal group that brought the case. Updated with details from the written judgement.

After a 12 year legal battle, the Supreme Court of India overruled a lower court ruling striking down a law criminalizing consensual same-sex intercourse on Wednesday morning.

The Supreme Court has set aside the sweeping 2009 ruling of the Delhi High Court that struck down the sodomy law, known as Section 377, and referred the question to parliament.

The legal organization that brought the case, the Lawyers Collective, tweeted from the courtroom that this is a “major setback to LGBT rights.”

Since the Delhi High Court ruled the law unconstitutional in 2009, its enforcement has been suspended throughout India. Today’s ruling means people can once again be arrested and prosecuted for “unnatural offenses” in the world’s second largest nation. Continue Reading

For LGBT Donors, Russia Is The New Marriage

Melissa Ethridge - Russia Freedom Fund

John Minchillo / AP Images for Arcus Foundation

Repost from BuzzFeed, by J. Lester Feder

Can the strategies that turned the U.S. LGBT movement into a money machine work when the fight goes abroad? Melissa Etheridge headlined a celebrity fundraiser for a new coalition that hopes to make that true.

When Julie Dorf started trying to raise money for international LGBT rights work more than two decades ago, she said, people looked at her like she was nuts.

“When we started [the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission] in the middle of the AIDS epidemic, people would look at me and say, ‘I have people dying in my backyard; I don’t have time to think about gay people in Russia.’”

And while U.S. support for LGBT advocacy abroad has grown over the years since IGLHRC came into being as the first international gay rights organization in 1990, it has claimed a tiny sliver of the dollars going to LGBT advocacy. Major grassroots fundraising efforts with the celebrity glitter that the domestic movement became so adept at were not a part of the equation.

But a fundraiser headlined by Melissa Etheridge on Monday night in Manhattan showed how much times have changed. Etheridge has partnered with Dustin Lance Black and other entertainment industry figures to form a coalition to raise funds for Russian LGBT activists, which they’re calling Uprising of Love. That’s also the title of the anthem Etheridge penned for the movement resisting Russia’s “homosexual propaganda” law. It will go on sale in January with proceeds going to LGBT activists.

By the time the Uprising of Love coalition launched, the Human Rights Campaign had already made waves by diving into international work with a $3 million investment from Republican financiers. Its first initiative was also a fundraising campaign for Russian activists, under the banner “Love Conquers Hate.” It uses the classic retail strategy that HRC perfected to support its domestic work: selling campaign-branded t-shirts advertised with photos of celebrities in campaign gear.

In remarks before performing the new song, Etheridge gave voice to the mood among Americans that seem to make them ready for international LGBT fundraising pitches.

“It seemed to be just weeks after we had just had this incredible high of that decision of the Supreme Court knocking down DOMA” that she learned about the anti-gay crackdown in Russia, she said. “We’ve been pushing this boulder for 20, 30 years up this hill [in the U.S.]. And we made it, and we can breath…. All of us who have gone that journey, when we see what’s happening in Russia, [we say] “No no no no. We are never ever ever going back.” Continue Reading

Related Content:

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

U.S. Mission to the United Nations: Remarks at a Roundtable Strategy Session on International LGBT Rights

Samantha PowerAs delivered by Ambassador Samantha Power, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations

I’d like to welcome you to the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, and I’d like to begin if I could with just a few remarks before handing the floor to Masha Gessen and Juliet Mphande from Zambia, and they’re going to offer their own opening reflections and then we’re going to have a great discussion together.

As you know, today is International Human Rights Day, and it’s hard to imagine an assemblage of activists who have done more to promote human rights than you all. The leaders in this room have come from places as near as snowy New York and as far as Moscow, Malaysia and Malawi; you’re a wonderfully diverse and, more importantly, an incredibly skilled and rigorous group from whom I am very eager to learn, so I will be very brief in the comments I make here.

Several years ago, when I began working on UN-related issues at the White House, the very organization that has brought many of you here today, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, was being denied consultative status here at the UN. Representatives of the Commission, I don’t have to tell you, sought year after year after year to gain the right to participate fully in the international system, but they were rejected because of what they stood for and whom they sought to protect and represent. We decided that we were not going to sit around and let that continue. And so we fought – and because we could accept nothing less, we eventually won. And when we did, President Obama himself said, quote “with the more full inclusion of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, the United Nations is closer to the ideals on which it was founded, and to the values of inclusion and equality to which the United States is deeply committed.” Continue reading ‘U.S. Mission to the United Nations: Remarks at a Roundtable Strategy Session on International LGBT Rights’

The History of LGBT Rights at the United Nations

For Human Rights Day, the OHCHR Free & Equal campaign released a new video that traces the evolution of the LGBT rights debate at the UN. It’s a short (2m50s) infographic video set to a sooundtrack provided by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, who were last week named as UN Equality Champions for their advocacy of LGBT equality.

If you are having trouble viewing the video you can click here to watch it on Youtube.

Human Rights: Advancing American Interests and Values

National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice addressed the participants of the Human Rights First 2013 Summit in Washington DC yesterday, in her speech Amb. Rice stressed that advancing democracy and respect for human rights is central to this administrations foreign policy. In her remarks Rice noted that LGBT human rights is an important component in advancing this agenda. Amb. Rice noted,

No one–no one–should face discrimination because of who they are or whom they love.  So, we are working to lead internationally, as we have domestically, on LGBT issues. This summer, President Obama championed equal treatment for LGBT persons while standing next to the President of Senegal, a country that is making progress on democratic reforms, but like too many nations, still places criminal restrictions on homosexuality.  President Obama met with LGBT and other civil society activists in St. Petersburg, Russia to discuss the restrictions they face in Russia.  At the UN Human Rights Council and in regional organizations, such as the Organization of American States and the Pan American Health Organization, the United States has fought for and won support for resolutions that recognize the rights and protect the safety and dignity of LGBT persons.  We created the Global Equality Fund to protect LGBT rights and those who defend them.

After the speech, Elisa Massimino, President and CEO of Human Rights First, said in a statement,

Today’s speech was a welcome affirmation of the Obama Administration’s commitment to protecting human rights at home and abroad. Ambassador Rice made a compelling case for why this effort is squarely in the national interest, arguing that short term trade-offs cannot alter our foundational values, and that respect for human rights is essential to our security.

Following her speech, Ambassador Rice met with human rights defenders from Bahrain, Egypt, Zimbabwe, and the international LGBT community.

Read the full speech here.

 


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