Archive for the 'Nigeria' Category

LGBT Human Rights in U.S. Foreign Policy

theplaceofhumanrights-cge-blogA December 20 New York Times story alleged that U.S. attention to discrimination and hate crimes against LGBT people in Nigeria had worsened, in fact, their plight. Others – including the State Department, Ugandan LGBT rights defenders Frank Mugisha and Adrian Jjuko, and Nigeria’s LGBT rights community – already have pointed out the flaws in that article.

We found especially unfortunate the Times article’s failure to recognize that a country’s foreign policy must be rooted in national values – and that if we are to stand for human rights, that stand must be made on principles, not on convenience. As such, we cannot prioritize one set of rights or one persecuted group above another. As a corollary, nor can we remain silent when any one group is persecuted.

For over 100 years, advancing human rights has been a U.S. foreign policy goal. That goal achieved particular prominence during the administration of Franklin Roosevelt: his wife Eleanor, known as an outspoken human rights advocate, chaired the committee that drafted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and gave birth to the modern human rights movement.

The Obama Administration’s advocacy of LGBT human rights is part of that proud tradition. At heart, the Administration’s policy simply reaffirms the Universal Declaration’s namesake principle that no part of humanity – no individual, no minority group – can be excluded from the promise of fundamental human rights. Making that promise explicitly applicable to LGBT people in Nigeria and other countries where LGBT lives and liberties are under vicious attack isn’t a mistake – indeed, failure to do so would be the shameful mistake. Speaking out against injustice is sound and principled policy. It should be a mark of pride for all Americans and for each successive Administration after President Obama leaves office.

Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Tom Malinowski and Ugandan Activist Frank Mugisha Respond to New York Times article “U.S. Support of Gay Rights in Africa May Have Done More Harm Than Good”

To the Editor:

American Support for Gay Rights May Leave Africans Vulnerable” (front page, Dec. 21) does a disservice to Africans and others around the world defending human rights, including those of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons.

Violence and legislation targeting L.G.B.T.I. persons long predates American engagement on this issue, and the article offers no real evidence that discriminatory laws adopted in recent years are a reaction to American government pressure.

It cites that we have spent more than $700 million to support “gay rights groups and causes” globally when that figure mostly encompasses public health programs that aid a broad range of individuals, including but not limited to L.G.B.T.I. persons.

American policy, which is supported by many countries, is simply to assert that people should not be subject to violence or discrimination simply because of who they are. “Do no harm” is the most important principle guiding our efforts, which are shaped in consultation with local communities.

And these local efforts have often been successful — including a campaign by Ugandans that culminated in the striking down of a repressive anti-L.G.B.T.I. law by their country’s Constitutional Court in 2014. We will continue to stand by those whose only crime is to demand the same human rights as everyone else.

TOM MALINOWSKI
Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor

_______________________________________________

To the Editor:

The underlying narrative of this article about anti-gay sentiment in Nigeria is that L.G.B.T.I. Africans are pawns of Western interests.

While Uganda is not Nigeria, I have found quite the opposite to be true in my country. The United States government by and large follows our lead before taking action on our behalf. And when security interests are on the line, it often takes significant pressure to get foreign governments to act on any human rights issue.

Here in Uganda, American donors paid attention only when American evangelicals like Scott Lively, Rick Warren and Lou Engle preached vitriol against gays, which prompted Ugandan legislators to propose the death penalty for gays in 2009.

In Uganda, as L.G.B.T.I. people, we sounded the global alarm because lives were at risk with such proposed legislation, and funders waited for instructions from us. We advised the American government on how to minimize harm, and it listened.

There will always be backlash to activism. That is not news.

Instead of elevating the significance of American influence, it would have been better if the article had focused on African politicians who employ any narrative at their disposal — including “neocolonial” ones — to maintain their power at the expense of scapegoated minorities like L.G.B.T.I. people, regardless of what the United States may, or may not, do.

Is there more violence now that L.G.B.T.I. people are more visible in Nigeria and elsewhere? Maybe, but it is homophobia, not funding, that is at fault.

FRANK MUGISHA
Executive Director, Sexual Minorities Uganda
Kampala, Uganda

Nigerian activists respond to New York Times article “U.S. Support of Gay Rights in Africa May Have Done More Harm Than Good”

The Coalition for the Defense of Sexual Rights (CDSR) has issued a statement regarding the recent article published by New York Times alleging that US supports for LGBT rights in Nigeria may have done more harm than good.

_________________________________________________________________________

Coalition for the Defense of Sexual Rights- Nigeria

Statement on the backdrop of New York Times article on US Support for LGBT Rights in Nigeria

The Coalition for the Defense of Sexual Rights (CDSR), an umbrella body of organizations working to secure the human rights of all Nigerians, inclusive of LGBT rights is alarmed at the recent article published by New York Times alleging that US supports for LGBT rights in Nigeria may have done more harm than good. CDSR dissociates itself from the article and condemned it for its lack of journalistic rigour.

First reaction to the article was what was the aim of the author of the article? There are questionable assertions in the article and we are taken aback that some people say the support they receive from the US or the West has backfired on advocacy. CDSR stance on such statements is that it lacks rigour. Also quoting a community member who does not understand the process of advocacy or the relationship that advocates have with the US and other western nations is a slap to the journalism that produce the article. Also the statement credited to a leading member of CDSR and an early pioneer of LGBT activism in Nigeria, Ms. Dorothy Aken’Ova is misleading.

We categorically state that US and other western nations support for LGBT rights in Nigeria has actually brought our issues to the front burner of politics and policy making. In fact to a large extent, it has contributed to the visibility that we enjoy as a community and using that visibility to strengthen our advocacy. What has been challenging in the past was the tactics employed in the past by the West in speaking first without local consultations. This was especially after the comments of Prime Minister David Cameron on cutting aid to nations that had or were proposing discriminatory laws and policies regarding sexual orientation. The policy has since changed in that local activists are consulted first before any decision is adopted by the West, especially the US. Key members of CDSR are a testament to that. Recently, the US Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labour, Steven Feldstein was in Lagos and met with activists. His key question was how should the US react?

CDSR welcomes the removal of USAID logo from documents of its partner organizations as it seeks to counter the cultural imperialism rhetoric that is being used by the right wing. However, the removal of the logo or not from these documents or office spaces does not in its entirety backfire on advocacy. This is because the conversation and advocacy to shift the rhetoric of cultural imperialism is a call of local activists and organizations working to promote human rights on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity for Nigerians. It is our call and we are constantly in discussion with each other on how to turn the table around. We must be able to challenge the hypocrisy of singling out LGBT rights out of all the humanitarian work that the US or other western nations fund.

And the issue of human rights violations has always been there before the advent of the anti-gay law. It won’t go away anytime sooner, US efforts or not. We state categorically that the anti-gay law caused a shift in human rights violation but to heap that blame on US support for LGBT rights in Nigeria lacks merit. We must remember that we had a government and system in place that was eager to use minorities’ lives as a politicking campaign and agenda.

And the case of police stopping and searching people on grounds of their perceived sexual orientation, there are plans to address the issues and raise them in the local media. Not raising this issue on the home front, especially in the media but then raising it on international media only contributes to the cultural imperialism that the article was referring to.

As the title of the anti-gay law in Nigeria was carefully worded to win the hearts and minds of Nigerians, the title of the article and its contents dance to the tune of our oppressors. Coming out in public to quote figures that the US support LGBT rights with is at the detriment of frontline activists, advocacy and our community members. It is in line with the notion that homosexuality is a western import. Caution must not be thrown to the wind especially as to how much the US or other western nation funds LGBT rights within media spaces. CDSR believes that such statements are for internal circulation as part of financial accountability of donor agencies.

CDSR is also alarmed that the article failed to mention the promotion of hate and the support of criminalization of homosexuality by the World Congress of Families but was quick in quoting an outrageous amount in US support of LGBT rights. CDSR expects that as a global media house, New York Times will balance its stories, cross-check facts and use its platform to call out against hate groups.

In correction of the misleading information as contained in the article, CDSR urges the New York Times to reproduce a more balance and unbiased article, and when seeking information on LGBT rights advocacy to speak with known frontline activists.

Finally, CDSR continues to count on the support its receives from the west and other donor agencies in ensuring that human rights for all Nigerian citizens becomes a reality without exclusion of any group.

Signed:

Coalition for the Defense of Sexual Rights

 

From St Patrick’s Day to the “Anti-Gay” Laws: The Common Theme of the Invisibilization of Homosexuality

Guest Blogger:  Fabrice Houdart, President World Bank GLOBE

As St Patrick’s Day parade organizers in Boston and New York were arguing today that the parade “isn’t a sexually oriented parade” to justify banning LGBT people from marching with signs indicating their identity, I was reminded of conversations on the “anti-gay” laws in Uganda, Nigeria and Russia.

The reasons why LGBT Americans are so eager to be visible in this parade is the same that drove homophobic parliamentarians to push “anti-gay” laws: visibility is key to greater acceptance of homosexuality. Tolerance of homosexuality is not only correlated with high visibility of LGBT people in the media and their communities, it is its single most important predictor even more than economic development. This transformative effect is what St Patrick’s Day parade organizers and Ugandan, Russian and Nigerian lawmakers want to avoid by locking the closet doors.

The historical tragedy and blessing for gay people is that they can avoid discrimination and violence provided they do not reveal their sexual orientation. But in exchange they must relinquish hope of progress and greater equality for their community. This was never an option for most other marginalized communities: such as racial minorities, people living with disabilities or women.

However, for LGBT people to be out in the workplace, in the medias or in community parades can have a transformative effect. The “contact theory” is now accepted as the main explanation from the sudden change of attitude towards homosexuality in the United States. As Herek and Glunt famously expressed in 1993 “heterosexual men and women who report knowing someone who is gay express generally more positive attitudes toward lesbians and gay men then do heterosexuals who lack contact experiences”.

In France or Spain, a mostly hidden gay population, particularly in very conservative workplace environments, has been a key impediment to greater acceptance. As a result France, which was well positioned culturally to be inclusive, remains today the least tolerant country in Western Europe towards homosexuals, with 28.8 per cent of the population responding that they would not want a homosexual neighbor in the World Values Survey (WVS) On the other hand, Nepal (which was not part of the WVS) where sexual minorities are increasingly visible is apparently showing clear signs of greater acceptance of homosexuals.

One of the most surprising aspects of our conversation on the “anti-gay” laws has been the perception by many that the impact of these laws is blown out of proportion and instrumentalized by western LGBT groups to their benefit. They point to the fact that there have been few reports of arrests, imprisonment and lynching. Similarly, they remind us that people who experience same-sex sexual attraction in these countries reject themselves the idea that such feelings make them “gay”.  A prominent African decision-maker – who has been silent publicly on the “anti-gay” laws passed in her own country – even called in a private conversation for patience with Africa reminding her interlocutor that it took centuries for western countries to experience this rapid rise in acceptance of homosexuality.

These arguments ignore the fact that “anti-gay” laws will actually prevent this cultural evolutionary process to even start. Ever. But beyond that, it is important to remember that this greater invisibilization is a step towards deshumanization, reinforcing the message that gays are outsiders. By deshumanizing LGBT people, politicians legitimize the violence, bullying and discrimination that many LGBT people experience everyday paving the way for a  possible more radical and systematic persecution.

I have no doubt that LGBT Americans will succeed in ensuring that the St Patrick’s Day parade becomes inclusive: it is too late in the United States to send back the LGBT community to the closet. Hopefully, the Russian community is too at the tipping point and they will find the courage and resources to overcome legal challenges. For Ugandan and Nigerian sexual minorities, the impact of the laws is tragic, reinforcing the existing widespread homophobia and annihilating hope for change.

Statement by President Barack Obama on the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda

THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 16, 2014

As a country and a people, the United States has consistently stood for the protection of fundamental freedoms and universal human rights.  We believe that people everywhere should be treated equally, with dignity and respect, and that they should have the opportunity to reach their fullest potential, no matter who they are or whom they love.

That is why I am so deeply disappointed that Uganda will shortly enact legislation that would criminalize homosexuality.  The Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda, once law, will be more than an affront and a danger to the gay community in Uganda.  It will be a step backward for all Ugandans and reflect poorly on Uganda’s commitment to protecting the human rights of its people.  It also will mark a serious setback for all those around the world who share a commitment to freedom, justice and equal rights.

As we have conveyed to President Museveni, enacting this legislation will complicate our valued relationship with Uganda.  At a time when, tragically, we are seeing an increase in reports of violence and harassment targeting members of the LGBT community from Russia to Nigeria, I salute all those in Uganda and around the world who remain committed to respecting the human rights and fundamental human dignity of all persons.

Op-Ed “Demonizing Gays in Africa”

Repost from the New York TimesBy 

As acceptance of gays and lesbians has grown in the United States and Europe, intolerance and persecution has been rising in other parts of the world. African nations are leaders in this cruel and dehumanizing trend.

The latest alarms were triggered by a ban in Nigeria on same-sex relationships that was passed by Parliament in May and signed by President Goodluck Jonathan on Jan. 7. Nigeria is a leading oil producer and Africa’s most populous country, and the ban is considered the most significant setback yet to gay rights on the continent.

Although gay sex has been illegal in Nigeria since British colonial rule, the draconian new law criminalizes homosexuality, banning same-sex marriage and prescribing years in prison to anyone who makes a “public show” of same-sex relationships or participates in gay organizations. Even people who simply support gays are subject to criminal arrest and penalties.

Before the new law was enacted, convictions for gay sex were rare in the southern part of Nigeria and occasional in the mostly Muslim north. But since the law went into effect, as Adam Nossiter has reported in The Times, arrests of gays have multiplied and some people have sought asylum overseas. According to Amnesty International, homosexuality is illegal in 38 of 54 countries in Africa. It carries the death penalty in Mauritania, Sudan and Somalia; in northern Nigeria, where Islamic law is practiced, the penalty can be death by stoning. In Senegal, the press regularly “outs” gays and same-sex relations carry a penalty of five years in prison. Another severe law has been passed by Uganda’s Legislature, but President Yoweri Museveni has not and should not sign it.

Such laws violate commitments made by United Nations members in theUniversal Declaration of Human Rights and other human rights documents.

If these nations cannot do the humane thing, they should at least consider their self-interest. For any leader who values stability, it makes no sense to promote new laws that foment greater hostility among people, like in Nigeria, where there is already ethnic tension.

Even in countries where antigay laws are not enforced, they provide an excuse for abuse — including blackmail and extortion — by police, Amnesty International said. It is unlikely that any of these countries can reach their full economic potential because many foreign entities may find it too risky to invest in such hostile environments. These governments, in abusing their citizens, are moving in dangerous and destructive directions.

Evangelicals Are Winning The Gay Marriage Fight — in Africa and Russia

Photo: Walter AstradaA/AFP/Getty Images

Photo: Walter AstradaA/AFP/Getty Images

Repost from National Journal

Long before President Obama selected three gay athletes to lead the American delegation to the Sochi Olympics, long before President Vladimir Putin declared Russia to be the world’s new “moral compass,” and long before practically anyone in the West had even heard of that country’s new “homosexual propaganda” law, one American had thought deeply about it—because he’d helped invent it. “My greatest success, in terms of my own personal strategy, is Russia,” Scott Lively says from his native Massachusetts, where he launched a quixotic bid for governor this year.

Lively, who is being sued in U.S. federal court by a gay-rights group for alleged crimes against humanity over his work fighting “the gay agenda” in Uganda, led a 50-city tour through the former Soviet Union several years ago to warn its citizens about the international gay conspiracy. His message and his proposed solution—to criminalize LGBT advocacy—were received with open arms in town-hall meetings, local legislatures, and St. Petersburg, which sent an open letter to the Russian people and later became one of the first cities in the country to outlaw “homosexual propaganda,” paving the way for the national legislation.

“I was an alcoholic and a drug addict until I got saved in 1986, and since that time my focus has been to restore a biblical focus with regards to marriage and sexuality,” he says. Lively became a lawyer, author, and advocate in pursuit of the cause, but he gave up on the United States almost a decade ago, when one of his cases (challenging an antidiscrimination law)failed. “I began shifting my emphasis, which is going to the other countries in the world that are still culturally conservative to warn them about how the Left has advanced its agenda in the U.S., Canada, and Europe—and to help put barriers in place. And the goal is to build a consensus of moral countries to actually roll back the leftist agenda in my country,” he explains matter-of-factly.

For Lively and the rest of a small but incredibly influential band of American activists who spend their time crisscrossing the globe to meet with foreign lawmakers, deliver speeches, make allies, cut checks, and otherwise foment a backlash against the so-called international gay-rights agenda, this is nothing less than a war for the fate of human civilization. Continue Reading


Stay Informed

Subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 233 other followers

Follow us on Twitter

Categories