Archive Page 2

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

 

Council for Global Equality Calls on U.S. Senators to Reject Legislation Abandoning Syrian Refugees

Senate-Refugee-Letter-Nov2015-1November 25 — Members of the Council for Global Equality today sent a letter to U.S. Senators calling on them to reject legislation, already passed in the House of Representatives as H.R. 4038, that would “bring the refugee resettlement system, which already moves at a very slow pace, to a grinding halt.”  The letter recognizes that LGBT refugees in Syria and Iraq are among the most vulnerable; that they have been hunted down and killed in gruesome public executions; and that they face additional discrimination and violence in flight within their own refugee communities.

The Council’s refugee experts conclude that “[t]hese vulnerable refugees deserve our protection, and we know they can be resettled safely using current security screening and vetting processes. Denying them protection, or limiting protection to those who are Christian only, would be devastating to those who most need our compassion, and it would provide a public relations victory of sorts to ISIS and others who seek to justify their terrorism using cultural and religious propaganda.”

Protecting the persecuted, and resettling vulnerable refugees, are strong U.S. commitments that must not be rejected.  Our nation is better than that.

White House Resources on Syrian Refugees: https://www.whitehouse.gov/campaign/resources-on-syrian-refugees

Engel Statement on Efforts to Advance LGBT Rights in Inter-American Development Bank Projects in the Americas

Press Statement from House Committee on Foreign Affairs Democratic Office

WASHINGTON, DC—Representative Eliot L. Engel, the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, made the following statement on a discussion by Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) board members today on incorporating awareness on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities into development programs at the IDB.  This event is the first of its kind at the IDB.

“As the Inter-American Development Bank works to reduce poverty and spur economic growth throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, marginalized groups must not be left behind.  The IDB has made great strides in its efforts to reach out to Afro-descendants, indigenous groups and women.  Now, I am pleased that the Bank is turning to the LGBT community.  I congratulate the Executive Directors for the United States, Uruguay and Argentina at the IDB on their efforts with Bank management to advance an informal discussion on development issues for LGBT communities in the Western Hemisphere.  LGBT communities can be victims of discrimination and may not have equal access to the same public services – including housing and job training – as the rest of the population.

“As former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said, ‘LGBT rights are human rights.’  I could not agree more, and I encourage other international financial institutions to start thinking about how to incorporate LGBT rights into their development programs.”

The IDB is a multilateral development bank that has been in existence since 1959.  It is the leading source of development finance in Latin America and the Caribbean, having provided about $14 billion to the region last year, and has 48 member countries.

Twelve UN Agencies Issue Unprecedented Joint Statement on Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender & Intersex People

UNHRC logo, Universal Periodic Review, White HousePress statement from Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)

In an unprecedented joint initiative, 12 UN agencies* today issued a powerful joint call to action on ending violence and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) adults, adolescents and children.

“This is the first time that so many members of the UN family have joined forces in defence of the basic rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people,” said the UN Human Rights Office’s Chief of Global Issues, Charles Radcliffe. “It’s both an expression of commitment on the part of UN agencies, and a powerful call to action for Governments around the world to do more to tackle homophobic and transphobic violence and discrimination and abuses against intersex people.”

The statement highlights the link between human rights abuses against LGBTI people and ill health, family break-up, social and economic exclusion and lost opportunities for development and economic growth. It sets out specific steps that Governments, in particular, should take to curb violence and protect individuals from discrimination – including measures to improve the investigation and reporting of hate crimes, torture and ill-treatment, prohibit discrimination, and review and repeal all laws used to arrest, punish or discriminate against people on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.

“Violence and discrimination against people based on sexual orientation, gender identity and biological sex characteristics violate their human rights and impoverish whole communities. That is why United Nations agencies working across such a wide range of areas – from human rights to health, education, employment, development, children’s rights, gender equality, food security and refugees – have come together to push for change,” Radcliffe said. “While the symbolism of this is important, the practical recommendations we are putting forward are more important. We hope this statement can provide a blueprint to Governments, as well as to UN teams on the ground in countries around the world,” he added.

The joint UN statement on “Ending Violence and Discrimination against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex People” has been endorsed by 12 UN entities: the International Labour Organization (ILO), the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) Secretariat, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the United Nations Fund for Children (UNICEF), the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), UN Women, the World Food Programme (WFP) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Thailand Acts to End LGBT Discrimination

Thailand MapRepost from Human Rights Watch

Thailand has taken a big step in protecting transgender people from discrimination.

Earlier this month, Thailand’s Gender Equality Act came into effect, signaling an inclusive future for the country’s legal treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. It is the first national legislation in Southeast Asia to specifically protect against discrimination on the grounds of gender expression.

The new law specifically prohibits any means of discrimination if someone is “of a different appearance from his/her own sex by birth” – a crucial tool in protecting transgender people. Everyone is assigned a sex at birth, but not everyone continues to identify with that label throughout their lives. Such an evolution of identity should have no bearing on an individual’s full enjoyment of their rights. Continue Reading

US government says it will now use the term ‘sexual rights’

Repost from the Washington Post

UNITED NATIONS — The U.S. government says it will begin using the term “sexual rights” in discussions of human rights and global development.

The statement at a U.N. meeting this week comes after years of lobbying from groups who have argued that the U.S. should show global leadership on the rights of people of all gender identities and sexual orientations.

The statement, posted on a State Department website, says sexual rights include people’s “right to have control over and decide freely and responsibly on matters related to their sexuality, including sexual and reproductive health, free of coercion, discrimination, and violence.”

The Washington-based Center for Health and Gender Equity pointed out the statement Thursday and said it was delighted.

“On one level, it’s symbolic. It also sends a signal to the global community that sexual and reproductive health and rights are a part of the global development agenda,” Serra Sippel, the center’s president, told The Associated Press. She said it follows “huge strides” made under the Obama administration on LGBT issues.

The announcement comes days before more than 150 world leaders gather at the U.N. to launch an ambitious set of development goals, including one of gender equality. One of the agenda’s many targets is to ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights by 2030. Continue Reading


Stay Informed

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

Join 202 other followers

Follow us on Twitter

Categories


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 202 other followers