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Ros-Lehtinen, Engel, Issa, Cicilline, Royce, and Smith Introduce Bipartisan Resolution on Violence in Chechnya

United States CongressMay 23, 2017

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa, made the following statement after introducing bipartisan resolution, H. Res. 351, condemning the violence and persecution in Chechnya. Joining Ros-Lehtinen in introducing this resolution were U.S. Reps. Eliot L. Engel (D-NY), Darrell Issa (R-CA), David Cicilline (D-RI), Ed Royce (R-CA), and Chris Smith (R-NJ).

Click to read the full resolution

Statement by Rep. Ros-Lehtinen: “For over a month, hundreds of gay or perceived to be gay Chechens have been arrested, many have been tortured, and some even killed. This bipartisan resolution sends a clear message to Chechnya and Russia authorities and any oppressor that the U.S. will not stand idly while these human rights atrocities are being committed. The U.S. government needs to continue to speak up to help those who are being indiscriminately targeted, and we must pressure Russia to uphold its international commitment to prevent any further abuses from happening while perpetrators are brought to justice.”   

Statement by Rep. Engel: “We’ve heard chilling reports of authorities in Chechnya detaining, torturing, and even killing men from the LGBT community over the last several weeks. We are witnessing the unfolding of a horrific tragedy and it’s long past time that the Kremlin start protecting its own citizens—all of them—regardless of sexual orientation. That’s why I introduced this bipartisan resolution with my colleagues—to send a clear signal that Republicans and Democrats alike call on President Putin to respect and promote the dignity of all persons and provide safe haven for all those fleeing such horrific persecution.”

Governments and Human Rights

Governments and Human RightsThe Council pays particular attention to the role that foreign governments play, or fail to play, in preserving and advancing the rights of their LGBT citizens. In our own country, we’ve seen how policies pursued by this President have helped empower greater respect and protections for LGBT persons. The same could happen in many countries abroad.

Moving the needle on respect for LGBT people is a process, of course. Governments must play a role in that process – in molding attitudes, not just reflecting them, and in forming policies that promote and reinforce cross-society acceptance and cooperation. We believe all governments – ours yes, but also those of every other country, friend and foe alike – should be held accountable for:

  • The tone that governing officials’ homo- or trans-phobic public rhetoric sets within society;
  • Failure to redress legally sanctioned discrimination or bias-motivated crimes against LGBT individuals;
  • The degree to which LGBT individuals are accorded equal access to services and opportunities, including health care, employment, education, and housing;
  • Whether LGBT civil society organizations are able to register and function unimpaired;
  • The prevalence of transgender-specific violence, abuse, and documentation issues, particularly in cases involving government action or inaction.
  • Abuse of government and police powers, e.g. the use of tangential laws regarding loitering to arrest or detain LGBT individuals arbitrarily; the use of foreign agent or tax laws to place disproportionate restrictions on LGBT civil society; physical abuses by police, prison, and hospital officials; and bribery solicited by such officials in order either to provide services or to avoid abusive treatment; and
  • The media climate in which LGBT rights are explained to and understood by the public, particularly when government-sponsored or –influenced media outlets are involved.

In addition, we should work with countries to understand intersex issues as a related set of human rights concerns. In this context, governments must be held accountable for policies or practices that unnecessarily and adversely impact the childhood development and adult health and sexuality of intersex persons. Appropriate government officials, including our own, must also enter into a new dialogue with intersex persons to identify best practices in the diagnosis, treatment and lifelong support for intersex health.

We know that the U.S. does not run the world by fiat. But we also recognize our responsibility, as citizens of a country that wields outsized influence in the world, to ensure this influence is put to positive use. We therefore hold our government accountable for encouraging foreign counterparts to guarantee the conditions in which the promise of the Universal Declaration can be realized for all citizens.

If fault is to be found in U.S. human rights policy, it certainly isn’t in our country’s attention to LGBT human rights, as the December 20 New York Times article alleges. Nor is it in failing to listen to the voices of local activists, as the Times article also suggests has been the case: to the contrary, we’ve found this Administration very much attuned to those local voices in framing its diplomatic dialogue and actions.

The fault we find, rather, is in this Administration’s lack of consistency in showing that human rights matter – and that deliberate abuse of those rights damages the fabric of our bilateral relationships.

Across this Administration’s tenure, the Council has urged that actions by foreign governments that abridge the human rights of any minority group automatically trigger a measured review of how those actions might impact U.S. programs in-country and, of consequence, potential U.S. policy responses.

We know, of course, that U.S. policy goals in any given country sometimes compete against each other. But if support for human rights is a principle, neither it nor its deterrent value should be shunted aside when inconvenient – not even when Nigerian oil contracts, Pacific trade deals, or terrorism concerns are in play.

We also see an urgent need for greater Administration transparency in the funding it provides for LGBT and other human rights programs, and in how those programs are evaluated. The State Department and USAID are embarrassingly far apart in how they measure their LGBT-related programming dollars – no doubt a contributing factor to the highly inflated, erroneous figure of $700 million reported in the New York Times. And unfortunately the World Bank and other multilateral development funders have yet to institute mechanisms needed to include LGBT minorities – who are so often denied basic livelihoods and excluded from the economic life of their own country – in the development opportunities that Bank programs are intended to promote.

Common counting practices, clear programmatic goals, and honestly reflective measurements of program results are basic to good governance.

Obama Administration Brings Global LGBTI Community Together to Advance Human Rights and Development

Todd Larson- USAIDRepost from the White House blog

Last month, the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development, where I work, co-hosted the third-annual Conference to Advance the Human Rights of and Promote Inclusive Development for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Intersex (LGBTI) Persons. The international conference brought together public and private donors, civil society activists, and the private sector.

While this gathering wasn’t the first of its kind — previous such conferences were held in 2010 in Stockholm and in 2013 in Berlin — participation in this year’s event grew significantly, including representation from 30 governments from all regions of the world. When combined with advocates from civil society organizations, more than 50 countries were represented, as well as 9 multilateral agencies, including the United Nations and the World Bank.

More than 25 governments and multilateral organizations signed a joint communiqué affirming their commitment to increased cooperation, coordination, and communication to advance the human rights of and promote inclusive development for LGBTI persons around the world.

Take a look at the communiqué. It is historic. It is inspirational. And as Americans, we can be particularly proud of it. The resounding international LGBTI-affirming commitments in the communique are a direct result of strong U.S. government support to organize as inclusive a convening as possible.

Activists present at the conference weren’t just observers, but active participants, proudly sharing their inspirational stories of courage, explaining to donors what their needs are, and working with donors to conceptualize creative solutions to advance the rights and livelihoods of their LGBTI brothers and sisters.

The conference underscored a number of themes, including that more research and data are needed. I am proud that USAID is already working with partners like UNDP in Asia and, most recently, the Williams Institute, through the Agency’s LGBTI Global Development Partnership, to publish reports that can inform and guide LGBTI inclusive development programming going forward. And through the Global Equality Fund and other assistance and diplomatic tools, the U.S. Department of State is working to support civil society organizations on the ground, to help ensure that the human rights of all persons, including LGBTI persons, are protected.

The conference also made clear that there is much more work to be done. Recent backsliding, such as the passing of anti-LGBTI legislation in The Gambia, and similar renewed threats in Uganda, is tragic proof.

So it was a convening of critical importance — with more than 50 nationalities taking their own leadership seat at the table.

Three years ago, the Obama administration laid out its pioneering support for the international LGBTI community. By hosting the recent forum to address issues of most pressing concern for LGBTI persons around the world, the Administration continued to deliver on its promise.

Todd Larson is the Senior LGBT Coordinator at the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Health Authorities Pledge to Improve Access to Health Care for LGBT People

Washington, DC, 3 October 2013 (PAHO/WHO) — Health authorities from throughout the Americas pledged to promote equitable access to health care for lesbians, homosexuals, bisexuals and transsexuals (LGBT), during the 52nd Directing Council meeting of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), which is being held this week in Washington, D.C.

Ministers of health and other delegates from North, South and Central America and the Caribbean approved a resolution in which they committed to promote equal access to health care in their countries’ policies, plans and legislation.

PAHO Director Carissa F. Etienne expressed support for the resolution, saying everyone has the right to health care and adding that PAHO would work with its member countries to address these issues.

The resolution, presented by the United States and supported by delegates from other PAHO member countries, calls for efforts to overcome stigma and discrimination against LGBTs in the health sector, which often prevents them from accessing needed health services. It also calls for respect for the human dignity and the right to health of LGBT people as well as greater awareness of the diversity of gender expression and gender identity.

“The barriers that LGBT people face in accessing health services—ranging from disrespectful treatment to denial of care—contribute to poor health outcomes,” said Nils Daulaire, assistant secretary for global affairs of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), in presenting the resolution.

Barriers to care for LGBT people include outright denial of care, poor care, disrespectful treatment or even abuse, restrictions against including significant individuals in family treatment of in support and decision-making roles, inappropriate assumptions about the causes of health or behavioral conditions, avoidance of treatment, and poor understanding on the part of health providers of the specific health-care needs of LGBT persons, including trauma-related and behavioral health issues related to discrimination.

LGBT persons experience worse health disparities and outcomes than heterosexual persons in every country across the globe. They have higher rates of depression, anxiety, tobacco use, alcohol abuse, suicide or suicidal ideation, as a result of chronic stress, social isolation, and disconnectedness from a range of health and support services.

The stigma and discrimination experienced by LGBT people in the health sector often keeps them from accessing health services when they need them. The resolution calls for eliminating inequalities in health, including those associated with gender identity and gender expression.

Etienne said PAHO would prepare a report on the health status of LGBT persons and the barriers they face in accessing health-care services, as well as the impact of that reduced access, to help find solutions to these problems.

PAHO is the world’s oldest international public health organization. It works with all the countries of the Americas to improve the health and quality of life of their peoples.

For more information:

PAN AMERICAN HEALTH ORGANIZATION 

WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION

Links:

CD52/18
—  Addressing the Causes of Disparities in Health Service Access and Utilization for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans (LGTB) Persons

http://www.paho.org/hq/index.php?option=com_docman&task=doc_download&gid=23145&Itemid=270&lang=en

LGBT Pride Month Statement for Secretary of State John Kerry

John Kerry LGBT Pride MonthThe Department of State joins people around the world in celebrating Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month. Forty-four years after Stonewall, we see incredible progress in the fight to advance the human rights and fundamental freedoms of LGBT people, both here in the United States and globally. Protecting universal human rights is at the very heart of our diplomacy, and we remain committed to advancing human rights for all, including LGBT individuals.

Unfortunately, recent events underscore that we can’t be content with the progress we’ve made. We still have a long way to go. All over the world, people continue to be killed, arrested, and harassed simply because of who they are, or who they love. There are LGBT people of all ages, all races and all faiths, citizens of every country on Earth. In too many places, LGBT people and their supporters are still attacked if they just attempt to stand up for their rights and participate in peaceful rallies or marches, or simply for being who they are.

The United States condemns this violence and harassment. LGBT persons must be free to exercise their human rights—including freedom of expression, freedom of religion and freedom of assembly and association—without fear of reprisal. Human rights and fundamental freedoms belong to all individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

The United States will continue to stand up for the human rights of all people, during this month and every month throughout the year, and we are proud to do so.

For the First Time in History, the World Health Organization (WHO) Vigorously Debated LGBT Health

United Nations GenevaOn May 29, the Executive Board of the WHO, comprised of 34 member states, discussed an item titled “Improving the Health and Well-Being of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender People” for six hours at the United Nations in Geneva.

The item had been initiated by Thailand and the United States, but was objected by Nigeria and Egypt, on behalf of two of the six WHO regions.  Countries lined up clearly in support or in opposition to discussing LGBT people’s health issues as a legitimate public health topic. Opposing countries were exceedingly vocal in their discomfort with the topic, sometimes displaying extreme homophobia during the discussions. Support for the issue came from Asia, Latin America, Europe, and North America. The debate ended by striking the item from the agenda of this meeting, but with the assurance that the topic will return to the next meeting of the body under a different title that is more acceptable to the different regions represented at the WHO.

Department of Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary for Global Affairs Nils Daulaire, representing the United States at the meeting, argued, “The United States understands that access to care for LGBT persons is a sensitive issue for many Member States. It is sensitive in my own country. However, debating and seeking common ground on sensitive issues is one of the key reasons we all do the work we do. If there were clear and simple answers we wouldn’t have to be here….We have raised this issue as a health issue; we leave the rights debate to other bodies.”

Reports from every region of the world show that LGBT citizens lack equal access to health care and experience real discrimination based on exposing their sexual orientation, sexuality, gender identity, or gender expression in health care settings. Such discrimination takes many different forms, including outright denial of services, harassment, embarrassment, violence and arrest, as well as internalized stigma and shame. Such experiences lead directly and indirectly to bad health outcomes.

WHO has a clear recent history of a people-centered approach to the health needs of particularly vulnerable populations – women, disabled, indigenous people, the elderly, slum residents and others. Working to address the specific health challenges of LGBT populations is a logical, and indeed critical, next step for WHO in its efforts to improve vital and universal access to health care.

Ironically, despite the very contentious nature of the debate about whether to discuss the issue at all, the body discussed the topic for more than one-third of the two-day meeting. And despite extreme anti-LGBT statements by many governments, representatives from all over the world, including and especially some from Africa and the Middle East, re-affirmed their commitment to providing access to health to all citizens, without discrimination on any basis, including sexual orientation, gender, or other status.

What to Expect From Romney

What to Expect From RomneyThe Council for Global Equality has urged elected representatives and their staff from both major political parties to stand against LGBT human rights abuse and support LGBT-fair policies around the world.  With the Republican Party now poised to nominate its presidential candidate, we address that appeal to Governor Romney.

Over the past four years, President Obama and his Administration have offered unprecedented support for LGBT human rights abroad:

  • The President has spoken out forcefully against anti-gay legislation pending in Uganda; his Administration has registered U.S. concerns about anti-LGBT discrimination and actions in countries ranging from Senegal, Cameroon, and Malawi to Lithuania, Honduras and Iraq.
  • The State Department’s annual human rights reports now give equal attention to the difficulties faced by LGBT people in every corner of the world.
  • New funding streams have been opened to support LGBT civil society organizations in troubled areas of the world.
  • The plight of LGBT refugees is being addressed.
  • Transgender Americans now can amend passport gender markers with greater dignity, while passport and birth report forms to be filed by gay and lesbian parents have been made more inclusive.
  • Secretary Clinton has spoken directly before an important human rights body about the need for the international community to address the issue of LGBT fairness more squarely.
  • And President Obama has directed all foreign affairs agencies to ensure that LGBT populations are integrated, where appropriate, into our foreign assistance programs and policies.

Through these actions, the Obama Administration has reaffirmed that no minority, in any country, is immune from international standards of human rights protections, and that America will stand for fairness for all people, including LGBT populations, as part of its foreign policy.  In doing so, it has drawn from America’s principles of equality, fairness, and justice – principles that are part of our national conscience and discourse.

We’ve heard little from Governor Romney about human rights – or, indeed, about how he would approach the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people within his prospective human rights policy.  We hope he will speak to these issues in the remaining course of his campaign, and that he will show leadership in ensuring that defending LGBT human and civil rights is a point of national unity, not one of political division.


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