Archive for April, 2014

The World Bank: Why It Should Consider Gay Rights

The Council for Global Equality participated in the set of meetings referenced in the article below. The Council also helped bring LGBT human rights activists to Washington DC to attend the week long set of meetings.

Repost from The Economist

THE ECONOMIST ran an editorial recently arguing that “the World Bank’s focus on gay rights is misguided” (“Right cause, wrong battle“, April 12th). We received a lot of letters on the subject, some of which appear in this week’s issue. The following letter is from some of the gay activists who attended the meeting to discuss gay rights with Jim Kim, the World Bank’s president:

SIR – On behalf of the LGBT activists that were at the World Bank spring meeting and who had the opportunity to engage with the president of the bank, Jim Kim, we would like to respond to your leader arguing that Mr Kim’s attempts to address discrimination against gays in Uganda and elsewhere will hurt the bank’s objectives regarding development. You argued against the World Bank’s involvement in “gay rights”, and perpetuated several misconceptions, inaccurately describing the courageous activists that met Mr Kim, and oversimplified their campaign for more effective safeguard policies.

You criticised the bank’s postponement of a loan to Uganda in response to the government’s passage of its Anti-Homosexuality Act, and asserted that the bank was prioritising “gay rights” over poverty alleviation. Although you attempted to downplay the importance of addressing discrimination in Uganda by citing the pervasive discrimination found against women and others around the world, it is precisely this prevalence of discrimination that makes this problem too big to ignore.

In fact, the sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) activists you referred to have asked the bank to address both gender and SOGI together in its efforts on discrimination. These communities face similar structural discrimination and marginalisation that lead to the inability to escape the poverty cycle. A growing body of evidence demonstrates that discrimination can lead to extreme poverty. In India, estimated costs of homophobia could be near 2% of GDP. The bank simply cannot afford to ignore discrimination if it hopes to achieve its goals of ending extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity.

You also quoted the bank’s Articles of Agreement, which outline its purpose as an institution focused solely on “economic considerations” and “not a place for political advocacy.” Limiting the bank’s mission to what is written in the Articles, however, would mean that it should still be focused on rebuilding Europe after the second world war. Neither “poverty” nor “shared prosperity”—both goals the bank has adopted over the past two decades—appear in the Articles. The institution has evolved since they were first drafted. The past 70 years have provided a wealth of research and lessons learned that demonstrate the links between poverty and discrimination.

The World Bank has already adopted several social and environmental safeguard polices that “condition” its funds on certain procedures that both it and borrowers must follow. They require due diligence and action plans when a country anticipates having to resettle people for a project, or when indigenous peoples might be affected. These policies have been replicated at nearly all development institutions, and although not perfect, are essential in preventing harm and providing opportunities for affected communities to engage in the development process and share in its benefits.

You think that the safeguards should be eliminated in order to be a more attractive lender. Such a race to the bottom would, however, be counterproductive, and would ultimately undermine the World Bank’s efforts at poverty reduction. Instead it must work in countries to ensure safeguards are effective and responsive to the needs of marginalised communities.

For the first time, the bank is undertaking a comprehensive review of all of its social and environmental safeguard policies. Despite its efforts in recent years to “mainstream gender” in its work, the World Bank has never adopted a mandatory policy on how to ensure its projects and programmes are gender inclusive and avoid exacerbating inequalities that lead to poverty. Furthermore, it has entirely overlooked the inclusion of sexual and gender minorities in its broader agenda.

The Uganda loan demonstrates that the bank currently has no way to ensure its projects avoid inequalities on the ground or contribute to possible human-rights violations on the basis of gender, sexual orientation or gender identity. Rather than being cancelled, the loan has been put on hold to allow the bank time to research the effects that the loan would have on SOGI communities. To make this research systematic prior to this stage in loan disbursement, the World Bank must adopt a safeguard policy on gender and SOGI that would prevent exclusion and recognise these individuals as important stakeholders in its work.

Despite your implication, the activists who visited Washington are not asking the bank to divest from countries like Uganda. Rather they are asking it to go into complex, discriminatory societies with their eyes open and to anticipate the risks before further marginalising vulnerable communities.

We continue to believe that the World Bank should do everything in its power to ensure that its investments are not creating or exacerbating existing inequalities, that it uses its power and influence to encourage its clients to ensure equitable distribution of economic growth benefits, and that the institution itself respects the rights of individuals, regardless of their gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

Andrea Quesada
Bisi Alimi
Hasan Abdessamad
Mirosława Makuchowska
Xiaogang Wei

Syariah Law in the Penal Code of Brunei: Stoning is Inhuman, Uncompassionate, and a Gross Violation of Human Rights

Press Statement by the ASEAN SOGIE Caucus(ASC)

The ASEAN SOGIE Caucus (ASC) condemns the regressive and inhuman revision of the penal code of Brunei Darussalam that introduces stoning to death as a specific method of execution for same sexual activities. The ASC is somewhat comforted by the postponement of the implementation of the new code. However, the ASC maintains its position on the introduction of the law, albeit the delay.

Same sex activities between men are already criminalized under the Penal Code, and if found guilty, one can be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 10 years, and will also be liable to fine. The revision of the Penal Code is uncompassionate, and will maintain the disgracefully low standards of human rights in the ASEAN.

The ASC is further saddened by the use of religion to justify the regulation of our bodily autonomy and integrity, violence and killing of other human beings. This is a blatant and gross violation of human rights, and far from the teaching of any religion, including Islam, that promotes compassion and equality.

We are extremely concerned of the psycho-social impact that this law will create on the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) persons in Brunei, increase of violence towards LGBTI persons, and the restriction of other rights, such as freedom of expression, assembly and association for both local and regional groups. Effectively, this derails the ASC’s advocacy to promote and protect the fundamental human rights of all persons regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression (SOGIE) in the ASEAN to live free without fear and as equals.

The ASC calls Brunei to remove the revision and fulfill its obligation as a state to promote and protect human rights of all people. Laws and policies must protect people and not further violate the oppressed. ASEAN has bloc needs to place equal emphasis and commitment on development, security and human rights. If ASEAN aims to be an ASEAN community by 2015, it needs to ensure that the people are the priority.

Over the last few years, we are thankful to have witnessed some progress in the promotion and protection of the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons in the some member states of ASEAN; some of which are state initiated. We call on these countries to show leadership in the area of human rights and take a progressive stand as human lives are at stake.

The ASC recalls its recommendations to:

  1. Immediately repeal laws that directly and indirectly criminalize SOGI, recognizes LGBTIQ rights as human rights, and harmonizes national laws, policies, and practices with the United Nations Human Rights Treaties and the Yogyakarta Principles.
  2. Establish national level mechanisms and review existing regional human rights instruments (e.g. AICHR, ACWC) to include the promotion and protection of the equal rights of all people regardless of SOGI with the active engagement of the LGBTIQ community.
  3. Depathologize SOGI and promote psychological well being of people of Diverse SOGIE in accordance with the World Health Organization (WHO) standards, and ensure equal access to health and social services.

 

Deep Currents of Prejudice Against Sexual Minorities in “The Economist”

Fabrice HoudartGuest blog by Fabrice Houdart, The World Bank.

In my opinion, The Economist article Right cause, wrong battle: Why the World Bank’s focus on gay rights is misguided” is guilty of what it is accusing the Bank of: its focus is arbitrary, capricious and misguided. It seems to be motivated by the prejudice that sexual minorities in the developing world are less deserving of development efforts than other minorities.

  • First, it is sensationalist to refer to the “World Bank’s focus on gay rights” to reinforce the claim that the Bank is pushing “Western values. Frankly, it is is quite a journalistic leap when President Kim actually stood up against all discriminations (see Feb. 27th, Washington Post oped).  Additionally, the Economist knows not to use “Gay” when referring to the multitude of sexual identities in the developing world;
  • Secondly, the author should have spoken with the representatives President Kim met last Friday before assuming that the topic was “how best to […] overhaul the bank’s lending policies” when its purpose was to listen for the first time in Bank’s history to sexual minority (see Washington Blade April 15 article on the event). Again this misrepresentation of a long overdue meeting is only intended to strengthen the allegation of a “western gay lobby” effort;
  • The second and third paragraphs omit to mention the crucial links between the Bank’s mission of “tackling extreme poverty” and inclusion. This poverty trap is best described in the 1990 Turk Report: “one might wish to describe impoverishment – i.e., the road from relative poverty to extreme poverty […]- as a succession of passive discriminations, or discriminatory omissions in respect of recognized fundamental rights, and the impossibility of securing justice”. In short, for the World Bank to reach its goal to eliminate extreme poverty by 2030, it needs to start raising systematically the difficult topic of discrimination with its clients;
  • The arguments that the focus on Uganda is “capricious” and the focus on “gay rights” is arbitrary are weak. The Economist is not able to point out to any other loan that the World Bank could legitimately have postponed in Nigeria or Ethiopia as it suggests. But more importantly, what seems arbitrary, capricious and misguided is for The Economist to focus on a single sexual minority inclusion effort when the Bank routinely makes similar efforts. In August 2013 as an example, it required Uganda to carry-out a social assessment on the impact on Batwas people (“pygmies”) of a proposed Education project (see IPP656 v3, August 2013). The Economist failed to denounced this “misguided” effort to protect this minority;
  • The argument that “anti-gay laws are [not] the most harmful to the poor” is strange. First of all, the lack of attention to sexual minorities by development organizations has led to such penury of data that nobody can assess the impact of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Secondly, the World Bank has devoted substantial staff and financial resources to address Roma issues, as an example, in the context of its work on poverty and economic development in Eastern Europe. Under The Economist worse discrimination” test, was it also a misuse of resources?
  • As for the “perverse results” of the postponement of the Uganda loan, The Economist did not do its homework. The World Bank has not cancelled but postponed the approval of this additional financing pending an assessment of barriers to quality health services for marginalized populations, interventions and corrective actions needed to overcome those barriers, and due diligence to determination of whether and how the project can achieve its development objectives in the wake of passage of the new legislation. This is far from the drastic cut in its support for the Health Sector in Uganda, The Economist tries to make it appear;
  • Finally, the argument that the World Bank should avoid mentioning the links between inclusion and development in order to remain competitive with Beijing’s conditions free aid is ludicrous. If the Bank was to follow this proposed strategy, it should also eliminate its environmental and social safeguards as well as its procurement rules. Obviously such a “race to the bottom” would be disastrous. But more importantly, the Bank’s strategy is to carve itself out a role in poverty eradication which would make it relevant to developing countries even though their governments might not need its money any more.

In summary, The Economist article reflects nothing more than deep currents of prejudice against sexual minorities even among socially liberal journalists. It also shows how uneducated and ignorant of the global sexual minority plight, Western publications are. It should be read as an encouragement for the Bank to continue its efforts to raise awareness on the disastrous consequences of discrimination against sexual minorities on their development outcomes.

Barney Frank Blasts Uganda Over Anti-Gay Law

Former Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Repost from the Washington Blade

Former Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank on Wednesday blasted the Ugandan government over a law that imposes a life sentence upon anyone found guilty of repeated same-sex sexual acts.

The gay Democrat noted during a hearing the Tom Lantos Commission on Human Rights held on the World Bank and human rights at the U.S. Capitol that he was among the members of Congress who in 2000 supported debt forgiveness for Uganda under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative.

“One of the things that we were told by some leaders of some countries who have engaged in vicious persecution of people who share my sexual orientation [is] ‘stay out of [our] business; you have no right to tell us what to do,’” said Frank. “Uganda was not so angry about gay people intruding in their business when in 2000, along with three of my colleagues, I was one of the leaders in passing a bill that gave them hundreds of millions of dollars in debt relief. We put that through and it was serious debt relief for Uganda.”

Frank also dismissed claims that Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, who signed the so-called Anti-Homosexuality Bill into law in February, and others have made that suggest the West brought homosexuality into Africa.

“The argument that we’re meddling in other people’s business; that’s total hypocrisy,” said the former congressman, referring once again to the 2000 debt cancellation. “People welcomed our help.” Continue Reading 

Spread of Russian-Style Anti-Propaganda Laws

Repost from Human Rights First
Countries-enacting-anti-LGBT-laws-3-12-2014-01

We saw what Putin can do to LGBT Russians while the international media was camped in Sochi covering the XXII Winter Olympiad. What kind of crackdown might happen when it’s all over?

Additionally, as the world watches what will transpire domestically, the international LGBT community waits to see if Russia’s brand of discriminatory legislation will take root elsewhere. The flagship piece of that legislation, the federal law banning “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations,” may soon be Russia’s number one export. Since the propaganda law went into effect, in June, 2013, legislators from Eastern Europe to Central Asia have begun to emulate the Russian Duma by introducing nearly identical versions of the law in their legislative bodies.

Continue reading and find a link to the fact sheet here

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