The Human Rights of LGBTQI Persons by the Numbers

April 7, 2021 – The State Department last week released its 2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. The reports are required by Congress and chronicle human rights concerns in all countries around the world. Not surprisingly, the 2020 trends were deeply discouraging: democracy is in decline, the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a grim toll, and abuses against LGBTQI persons are proliferating. The report covers 195 countries and territories and of those, the State Department identified anti-LGBTQI laws, violence, or discrimination as a significant concern in 112. That means that human rights abuses against LGBTQI individuals are a top-line U.S. foreign policy concern in 58% of all countries – and that increases to 60% of countries in which the United States has invested significant taxpayer money through U.S. foreign assistance to improve local conditions.  

In contrast to the magnitude of the problem, the House Appropriations Committee last year recommended that only about 5% of the State Department’s budget for global human rights initiatives – through the Human Rights and Democracy Fund – should be dedicated to LGBTQI programming. The recommended allocations at USAID were even worse.  Total LGBTQI-dedicated foreign assistance represents a mere .05% of our nation’s total overseas development funding.  That level of investment does not meet the pressing needs identified in this year’s human rights reports. Nor does it match commitments made in President Biden’s recent Memorandum on Advancing the Human Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Intersex Persons Around the World

The Council, leading civil society organizations, and members of Congress are calling urgently for the Biden Administration and Congress to allocate at least $60 million to support LGBTQI human rights and development priorities in the FY2022 foreign operations budget – the first to be submitted to Congress by President Biden.  That is a significant increase from this year’s target of $16 million, but it still does not come close to meeting the needs identified by the State Department, U.S. embassies, and USAID missions themselves.  

President Biden’s global memorandum outlines how the U.S. will “lead by the power of our example” to end violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression, or sex characteristics and advance global LGBTQI rights. Issued early in Biden’s presidency, the memo specifically identifies development assistance as a mechanism to “protect human rights and advance nondiscrimination.” Now is the time for the Biden Administration to fund and operationalize those commitments.  

See also:

It’s Time to Fund the President’s Global LGBTQI Commitments | Global Equality Today

Standing for the Rights of LGBTQI Persons in the State Department’s Annual Human Rights Reports | Global Equality Today

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