Archive for May, 2016

U.S. Department of State Commemorates International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia (IDAHOT)

Repost from U.S. Department of State

John Kerry, Secretary of State
Washington, DC

On International Day Against Homophoia, Transphobia, and Biphobia, we stand in solidarity with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons worldwide. We celebrate the progress made to advance a world where all persons are respected and can live free from fear and discrimination. And today we reaffirm our belief all persons are born free and equal in dignity and rights.

The United States is unwavering in our commitment to advance full equality for LGBTI individuals everywhere. We recognize there is still much work to be done. As American civil rights leader Fredrick Douglass famously said, “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.”

Last February, I was honored to appoint the first ever Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons, Randy Berry. In his first year, Special Envoy Berry has traveled to over 40 countries, discussing the human rights of LGBTI individuals with senior government officials, and bringing together the faith and business community, in recognition that we all have a role to play in advancing equality.

Around the world, U.S. embassies and consulates work closely with LGBTI communities in support of equality. We integrate respect for the rights of LGBTI persons throughout our assistance programs. Through the Global Equality Fund, we provide direct support to LGBTI civil society organizations to enable them to produce social change.

Here at home, we know that when communities exclude, we do not—cannot—reach our full potential. When people are arrested, harassed, or even killed, just for being who they are or expressing whom they love, we all suffer. So our work is not over.

On this day—and every day—let us redouble our efforts to create a more just and fair world for all. Onward.

Deteriorating Human Rights in The Gambia

Yahya JammehMay 3, 2016 – The Council for Global Equality joined 15 leading human rights organizations in writing to the State Department and the White House this week to express ongoing concern over the deteriorating human rights landscape in The Gambia following a series of arbitrary arrests involving police brutality and possible torture. This adds to concerns that we have raised with the Obama Administration over the past several years, including pointed questions about the targeted persecution of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals in The Gambia.

The government’s arrests and harsh suppression of protests last month, in advance of elections anticipated at the end of the year, have been condemned by local, regional and international human rights leaders. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch reported that an opposition leader died in April under suspicious circumstances shortly after his arrest. The government’s brutal treatment of the opposition and the suppression of protests have been condemned by the United Nation’s Secretary-General, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the ECOWAS Commission and the State Department. There have been similar statements of concern from leading civil society in the region, including IHRDA, WACSOF and the NGO Forum at the African Commission. This latest crackdown is only the most recent chapter in a long line of abuses perpetrated against independent voices by President Jammeh’s regime since he seized power in 1994.

President Jammeh has also continued his inflammatory rhetoric against LGBT Gambians. In March 2016, when addressing the opening of the National Assembly, he said that homosexuality is “ungodly,” and “I will never tolerate it here in The Gambia. Those who will be caught practicing it will face the full force of the law.” These remarks are not empty rhetoric – the Gambian criminal code was amended in October 2014 to include much harsher sentences for various acts defined as “aggravated homosexuality.” LGBT Gambians have since been subjected to arrest and detention, torture, and other ill-treatment by state security forces.

In light of these reports, the Council for Global Equality has renewed its call to take further actions against President Jammeh and his government. In particular, as previously requested, we have urged the Obama Administration to consider visa bans against Gambian officials guilty of grave human rights abuses, and to consider using the sanctions powers available under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), which have been used in the past to respond to human rights abuses in countries such as Belarus, Venezuela and Zimbabwe. We have also asked the Obama Administration to cut any remaining security assistance to the government in the wake of these abuses. We urge the Obama Administration to take these steps now, before the pre-election violence spirals out of control in the shadow of elections later this year.


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