Posts Tagged 'Africa'

Advocacy Groups Seek U.S. Travel Ban Against Gambian President

Obama Jammeh White HouseRepost from the Washington Blade

More than a dozen LGBT advocacy groups on Friday called upon the Obama administration ban Gambian officials responsible for human rights abuses from entering the U.S.

The Human Rights Campaign, the Council for Global Equality, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, Human Rights First, GLAAD, the National LGBTQ Task Force, the Los Angeles LGBT Center, the Global Justice Institute with the Metropolitan Community Churches, the National Center for Transgender Equality, Out and Equal, the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce in a letter urged the White House to institute a visa ban on Gambian President Yahya Jammeh and other “key Gambian officials” who “have promoted discriminatory laws and who are responsible for grave human rights abuses.” The groups also called upon the Obama administration to freeze Jammeh’s U.S. assets that include a multi-million dollar home in Potomac, Md.

“It is not too late for the United States to send President Jammeh and his regime a clear and unequivocal message: human rights violations will not be tolerated and the U.S. government will respond with actions, as well as with strong condemnation,” reads the letter. “It is crucial that the United States take concrete action whenever countries enact discriminatory laws, and the Gambia should be no exception.” Continue Reading

Global LGBT Rights Advocates Send Joint Letter to President Obama

Photo: Pete Souza

Photo: Pete Souza

A group of 24 leading LGBT rights advocates from every region of the world sent a joint letter to President Obama in late December asking him to stand with them in seeking fairness and equality. While applauding the President’s support, they noted inconsistencies in his Administration’s response to anti-LGBT laws that have been adopted recently in various countries. Without a more consistent approach, they pointedly asked President Obama: “How can we trust otherwise that the United States will, indeed, stand with us as we fight for our rights?

Recognizing that the response to harmful laws adopted in different countries may not be identical in every case, and that any response must be tailored to fit the country context, the advocates nonetheless asked that the United States respond, without fail and in whatever way is most appropriate, whenever another country adopts a new law or a national policy that denies fundamental rights to LGBT citizens.

Click here to read the full letter.

U.S. Kicks African Nation From Trade Agreement Over Anti-LGBT Crackdown

Repost from BuzzFeed

The United States on Tuesday dropped The Gambia from a popular free trade agreement in response to a crackdown on LGBT rights and other human rights concerns.

The decision to drop the small West African nation from special trade status under the African Growth and Opportunity Act of 2000 came late Tuesday afternoon, just after media in The Gambia announced that three men would be put on trial for homosexuality. These are the first to face trial since police began arresting people on allegations of homosexuality in November. At least sixteen more are known to be in detention, and Gambian human rights activists do not know if they are even still alive.

“The U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) has been monitoring the human rights situation in The Gambia for the past few years, with deepening concerns about the lack of progress with respect to human rights, rule of law, political pluralism, and the right to due process,” said Ned Price, a spokesman for the White House, in an email to BuzzFeed News. “In addition, in October, Gambian President Jammeh signed into law legislation that further restricts the rights of LGBT individuals, including life imprisonment for so-called ‘aggravated homosexuality.’ Reports have surfaced of arrests, detention, and torture of individuals because of their perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.”

The move comes after Gambian human rights activists were able to secure their first meetings with high-ranking US officials after years of unsuccessfully trying to get the State Department to respond to the abysmal human rights during President Yahya Jammeh’s 20 years in power. The meeting coincided with a petition drive launched by the largest American LGBT organization, the Human Rights Campaign, calling on the Obama administration to “take swift action against President Jammeh for his intolerable actions.” LGBT rights advocates say their role in opening doors to the Obama administration suggests they have fully arrived as a force in influencing US foreign policy.

“For the first time the gay community really is coming together to get equal consideration in U.S. foreign policy,” said Mark Bromley of the Council for Global Equality, which lobbies for LGBT rights in international affairs. Bromley said that only in recent years have LGBT groups been able to exert the kind of influence that certain religious or ethnic communities have exerted to focus the U.S.’s foreign policy when their counterparts in other countries are under threat. Continue Reading at BuzzFeed

Related Content: Read the full statement from the White House regarding The Gambia’s AGOA status

 

US Should Act Against Gambia’s Dictatorship

President-Obama-and-President-JammehRepost from AlJazeera.com

On Oct. 9, longtime Gambian President Yahya Jammeh quietly signed into law a new bill that carries a penalty of life imprisonment for “aggravated homosexuality.” The renewed crackdown on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Gambia has justifiably earned the West African nation an outsize reputation as one of the most repressive countries on the continent. Far from being an isolated campaign, his assault on LGBT rights is part of a wave of human rights abuses prevailing in the country. Jammeh, who came to power in 1994 after toppling a democratically elected president, is responsible for countless atrocities, including torture, arbitrary executions and disappearances of critics, while crippling civil society through a raft of repressive laws and routine intimidation.

To be sure, Jammeh is not the only African despot targeting vulnerable groups to deflect attention from his excesses and failures. Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni and Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe have also used convenient scapegoats to stir up populist sentiment and extend their rule. Jammeh’s recent rhetorical venom is an expedient gambit to divert attention from his regime’s abuses as well as the imminent threat of food shortages and famine and a rapid decline in the value of the country’s currency.

He has always been hostile to LGBT rights and is prone to bizarre public outbursts. However, his recent statements and collusion with the state media, which is busy trumpeting dangerous stereotypes about gay people and peddling hate speech, have coincided with crackdowns. At least 15 LGBT people are being detained incommunicado — a grim predicament in a country whose prisons are among the world’s worst. Many more people have fled to neighboring Senegal. The regime is also said to be working off a list of 200 alleged homosexuals, who are targeted for arrest. Even minors have not been spared during this nationwide roundup. For example, a 16-year-old boy was recently detained for nearly two weeks on “suspicion of being gay.” The National Intelligence Agency, a unit infamous for carrying out disappearances, torture and extrajudicial executions, is leading this effort.

For too long, Jammeh and his purveyors of terror in Gambia received a free pass from the international community for their heinous crimes. It is time for the United States and its allies to break their silence and take action. The European Union has already withdrawn significant financial support because of Gambia’s poor human rights record. On Dec. 4, the White House issued a statement expressing dismay over rampant human rights violations and the persecution of LGBT people. But press statements and finger wagging will not suffice. Continue reading at Al Jazeera.

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.

To consolidate an Obama legacy, entrench support for global LGBT rights

White HouseRepost from The Hill by Raymond Smith

With attention increasingly turning to the legacy of the Obama administration, one area of civil rights seems sure to be viewed as a breakthrough success: the recognition and advancement of equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. And while this legacy is already on solid footing on the domestic front, many opportunities still exist to entrench support for LGBT rights globally.

In 2008, Obama ran as a “fierce ally” of the LGBT community, yet many were unimpressed by the early months of his administration. In 2009, the LGBT magazine The Advocate ran a parody of his iconic “Hope” poster with the caption “Nope?” Shortly before the 2012 election, however, the same magazine ran a cover with his face superimposed on the grand seated statue in the Lincoln Memorial.

What changed so drastically over time? The evolution of the administration began with a host of incremental steps, such as ensuring hospital visitation rights to same-sex partners and lifting the ban on entry to the U.S. to people with HIV. Over time, Obama led the successful repeal of the ban on “gays in the military” and ensured the enactment of an LGBT-inclusive hate crimes bill. Using the bully pulpit, he filmed a segment for the “It Gets Better” campaign in support of LGBT teens, and in his second inaugural address, he cited the landmark Stonewall Riots of 1969 alongside Seneca Falls and Selma as turning points in civil rights history.

Perhaps most of all, Obama personally endorsed same-sex marriage and his administration refused to defend the unconstitutional Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Since the Supreme Court overturned DOMA in 2013, the administration has been diligent and proactive in extending the full range of marriage equality rights with regard to immigration, access to federal programs, taxation and more. At the same time, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act this year has begun to be interpreted, for the first time, to confer federal anti-discrimination protections on transgender people.

Much less noticed has been an equally impressive parallel track taken with regard to promotion of LGBT rights around the world. Three years ago this week, in December 2011, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave a speech emphasizing that “gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights.” The phrasing echoed her famous speech as first lady on women’s rights, given in Beijing 15 years prior, which signaled the inclusion of gender equality as a central focus of U.S. foreign policy.

Concurrently, Obama issued a “Presidential Memorandum on International Initiatives to Advance the Human Rights of LGBT Persons.” Unlike on the more scattered and improvised domestic-policy side, this one landmark document has served as a coherent strategic blueprint for action by the federal government.

The memorandum contains several major elements, including combating anti-LGBT criminalization abroad, protecting LGBT refugees and asylum seekers, responding to anti-LGBT human rights abuses internationally, providing targeted foreign assistance and engaging international organizations to secure LGBT rights. In all of these areas, the State Department has outlined a range of accomplishments.

For example, a Global Equality Fund has been established to bridge government, companies and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to provide emergency and long-term assistance. The fund promotes LGBT rights through a small grants program, an emergency protection rapid response mechanism, and long-term capacity-building efforts for human rights organizations overseas. Protections for asylum seekers has also been expanded; in one notable case, a Ugandan LGBT rights activist was recently provided asylum rather than being forced to return to a potentially fatal environment in his home country.

Likewise, embassies around the world have begun proactively engaging with governments and human rights organizations. And at the United Nations, the U.S. is a charter member of the LGBT Core Group, which in September issued a ministerial declaration on “Ending Violence and Discrimination against Individuals Based on Their Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.”

Despite these crucial steps, much more work remains to be done. “The U.S. blueprint for action can be a powerful force, but only if its approach is consistent and guided by the understanding that all rights are indivisible and universal,” said Jessica Stern, executive director of the New York-based International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission.

“Achieving change will demand focused attention. One crucial step forward would be the immediate creation of a Special Envoy for LGBT Rights at the State Department,” Stern noted. Such an envoy would act as a high-level advocate for LGBT concerns, working within the State Department, bilaterally with other countries and through multilateral organizations. The position of special envoy is the focus of bill introduced last summer by Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.).

Likewise, the Council for Global Equality, a Washington-based NGO with the goal of advancing an American foreign policy inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity, “has identified a series of actionable next steps that could advance the Administration’s commitment by moving the government from a reactive posture to a longer-term human rights protection agenda,” according to the council Chair Mark Bromley. These objectives, added Bromley, “are designed to harmonize the Administration’s commitments into a coherent human rights policy — and an enduring legacy of President Obama.”

In addition to creation of the special envoy position, other priority areas include:

  • Requiring automatic policy reviews whenever foreign countries enact new anti-LGBT policies. The review could be triggered by legislation, changes in enforcement patterns or failure to protect LGBT populations. Such a thorough review was conducted after the passage of a particularly repressive anti-gay law in Uganda last year, but it’s unclear that comparable reviews have been undertaken in the case of similar laws enacted in Nigeria and, most recently, Gambia.
  • Mandating that government contractors and grantees globally have LGBT non-discrimination policies as pre-conditions for contracts or assistance. Such a move would parallel an executive order issued last summer banning anti-LGBT discrimination policies among government contracts within the U.S. for domestic contactors.
  • Strengthening policies to protect LGBT rights in multilateral organizations such as the U.N., the World Health Organization, the World Bank, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe and the Organization of American States. The U.S. should also advocate for adequate funding and staffing for such policies to be enforced and monitored.
  • Establishing annual reports and other mechanisms to make information more widely available about federal effort in the realm of global LGBT rights, and also holding more extensive consultations with a range of stakeholders about how best to implement the memorandum.

Whatever further steps the Obama administration takes, some critics will inevitably dismiss the relevance of LGBT rights, or consider LGBT rights a marginal issue when it comes to the forging of a presidential legacy that will stand the test of time.

But such voices have been proven wrong before. They’re the same ones that in the 1960s saw no need for the Civil Rights Act, in the 1970s resisted signing the Helsinki human rights accords, in the 1980s rejected sanctions against apartheid South Africa, in the 1990s mocked steps to advance a global women’s rights agenda and in the 2000s endorsed human rights abuses in the name of fighting terrorism.

Yet, today, each of these incidents is recalled as a badge of honor — or a mark of shame — for the president who presided over them. So, too, will today’s struggle for LGBT rights, both at home and abroad, be recalled as a substantive and productive element of the Obama legacy.

 

Smith is a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute; an adjunct assistant professor of political science at Columbia University and New York University; and author of Importing Democracy: Ideas from Around the World to Reform and Revitalize American Politics and Government.

 

President Kim’s Clarion Call

Repost from Huffington Post by Maria Burnett (Human Rights Watch)

In February, the World Bank delayed a $90 million loan for health care in Uganda out of concern over its new Anti-Homosexuality Act. Since then, the Constitutional Courtnullified the law for lack of a parliamentary quorum during the vote. But the government quickly filed a notice of appeal. Members of parliament are also pressing to bring the law back to the floor, swearing they can gather the constitutionally-required numbers.

Just as troubling, another law came into force in July that criminalizes even unintentional HIV transmission and requires HIV testing of pregnant women without their consent, and forced disclosure.

In a personal and thought-provoking Washington Post op-ed earlier this year, World Bank President Jim Kim said that discrimination is bad for economies, societies and individuals. It can prevent people from fully participating in the work force and discourage multinational companies from investing or locating activities in countries with discriminatory laws, he said.

Implicit in the message was that discrimination is bad for governments receiving development assistance too. It would appear that President Yoweri Museveni is alsostarting to understand the economic cost of anti-equality policies, but his rhetoric has been inconsistent. The World Bank/International Monetary Fund annual meetings in Washington this week give President Kim a critical opportunity to stand up for these concerns and push Uganda’s government to take meaningful steps to address discrimination in health services.

The frequently reported discrimination in Ugandan health centers against sex workers and gay men discourages people from seeking care. Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda, the former health minister, in August admitted to two groups that discrimination exists and that the government is not equipped to monitor or respond to it.

Last week, in a letter to President Kim, 16 Ugandan and international organizations laid out enforceable steps the bank should take to see that discrimination in care for marginalized groups ends before releasing the loan. Steps include requiring the government to prohibit discrimination in healthcare delivery on grounds of gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and all other grounds articulated under international law, and requiring government health care workers to respect patient confidentiality, privacy and informed consent to all treatment.

The World Bank should also fund activities to promote patients’ rights, including providing patient advocates and legal counsel for people who face discrimination, breach of confidentiality or other abuses in health settings and training for Ugandan health workers to respect these rights. The groups also pressed the bank to urge the government to guarantee that it wouldn’t interfere with independent monitoring of health services.

It is crucial for the World Bank to urge the Ugandan government, publicly and privately, to repeal all discriminatory laws and end discriminatory practices. The bank should emphasize the importance of non-discrimination for health and economic development.

After 28 years in power, President Museveni is gearing up to run again in 2016. Aid has continued to flow despite large-scale corruption scandals, but this time should be different. The bank’s decision on the loan will affect the bank’s credibility in Uganda and beyond.

President Kim’s statement about the deleterious economic impact of discrimination was a precedent-setting decision to stand up for human rights. Pushing for real safeguards could significantly contribute to mitigating discrimination against LGBTI patients, women and other marginalized populations who are at disproportionately high risk of negative health outcomes and poverty.

Releasing the loan without meaningful safeguards, while Uganda’s parliamentarians continue to pass discriminatory laws and urge more discriminatory measures, would show a profound disregard for President Kim’s clarion call.


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