Posts Tagged 'Anti-Homosexuality BIll'

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.

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.

 

Obama’s Evangelical Gravy Train

HIV Billboard

Photo: Andy Kopsa

Repost from The Nation by Andy Kopsa

Despite the president’s promise to cut funding to discredited HIV and pregnancy prevention programs, taxpayer dollars are still bankrolling anti-gay, anti-choice conservative religious groups.

On March 24, just a month after Ugandan President Museveni signed a bill making homosexuality a crime punishable by life in prison, Obama administration officials announced that they were increasing military aid to Uganda in its effort to quell rebel forces. Human rights groups criticized the move, arguing that the aid offered Museveni “legitimacy” after he supported a law that has been widely condemned for violating human rights. The same day, a State Department spokesperson quietly announced that the administration would also “demonstrate our support for the LGBT community in Uganda” by shifting $6.4 million in funding away from the Inter-Religious Council of Uganda, whose actions, State Department spokesperson Marie Harf said, “don’t reflect our values.” That may be the understatement of the year.

According to Ugandan AIDS activists, administration officials had been told a year and a half earlier that the Inter-Religious Council and other State Department grantees were actively promoting the antigay bill. In September 2012, several LGBT and AIDS advocates in Uganda were invited to a call with representatives from USAID, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Office of the US Global AIDS Coordinator and other US officials to discuss HIV service delivery to vulnerable communities. According to minutes taken by one of the participants and conversations with others on the call, the US officials were warned that several grantees and subcontractors through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, commonly referred to as PEPFAR, were visibly supporting the bill, undermining service delivery to men who have sex with men, or otherwise fomenting anti-gay activities. US officials asked the Ugandan activists to provide information on these actions by the US government’s so-called “implementing partners,” and told them that such evidence might lead to an investigation by US officials. Continue Reading

 

Video: Secretary Kerry Delivers Remarks at the GLIFAA Pride Event

If you cannot see the video please follow this link

On June 19, Secretary of State, John Kerry addressed the audience at the LGBT+ Pride in Foreign Affairs Agencies (GLIFAA) LGBT pride celebration.

For a written transcript click here

Statement from Ambassador Deborah Birx, M.D., U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator, on the Passage of the HIV Prevention and Control Act by the Ugandan Parliament

From The United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief

I am deeply concerned by yesterday’s passage of the HIV Prevention and Control Act by the Ugandan Parliament. From all reports, among the legislation’s most troubling provisions is the criminalization of “attempted transmission of HIV” and “intentional transmission of HIV” with penalties of up to ten years imprisonment. In addition, the bill makes HIV testing mandatory for pregnant women, their partners, and in cases of rape and allows for disclosure of a person’s HIV status under a court order without consent.

Over the past 30 years, we have witnessed time and again how stigma, discrimination, and fear – and the misguided policies that stem from them – further fuel the epidemic by deterring those most in need from accessing lifesaving HIV prevention, treatment, and care services. We have also learned from experience that creating programs that respect and uphold the dignity of every human being and provide care to all who need it not only increases the numbers of people who access HIV services but also decreases the numbers of new HIV infection. The cause and effect are clear.

We are at a critical juncture in the fight against HIV/AIDS. After three decades of hard won progress against the disease the dream of an AIDS-free generation is within our grasp. The good news is that we know what works. We have developed and implemented effective HIV prevention programs and are providing lifesaving treatment to millions of people in Uganda and around the world. The bad news is that a return to antiquated, discriminatory, and non-science based approaches to preventing and controlling the epidemic will quickly erode all the hard won gains we have made.

Ironically, Uganda was one of the first countries in Africa to break the silence on HIV/AIDS. The leadership of President Museveni, the Ugandan Parliament, and the extraordinary community response across the country was the exemplar of best public health practice. These efforts were also grounded in compassion, social justice, and access for all. The HIV bill passed yesterday, alongside the recently enacted Anti-Homosexuality Act, threaten to undermine that legacy of leadership and drive an already expanding epidemic in the country.

I join with the many health practitioners, HIV/AIDS and human rights activists, multilateral institutions, and individuals everywhere – in Uganda and around the world – in calling for the people and the Government of Uganda to reject this regressive bill. Sound public health, an effective HIV/AIDS response, and the protection of fundamental human rights demand it – and the lives of millions of Ugandans are at stake.

Deep Currents of Prejudice Against Sexual Minorities in “The Economist”

Fabrice HoudartGuest blog by Fabrice Houdart, The World Bank.

In my opinion, The Economist article Right cause, wrong battle: Why the World Bank’s focus on gay rights is misguided” is guilty of what it is accusing the Bank of: its focus is arbitrary, capricious and misguided. It seems to be motivated by the prejudice that sexual minorities in the developing world are less deserving of development efforts than other minorities.

  • First, it is sensationalist to refer to the “World Bank’s focus on gay rights” to reinforce the claim that the Bank is pushing “Western values. Frankly, it is is quite a journalistic leap when President Kim actually stood up against all discriminations (see Feb. 27th, Washington Post oped).  Additionally, the Economist knows not to use “Gay” when referring to the multitude of sexual identities in the developing world;
  • Secondly, the author should have spoken with the representatives President Kim met last Friday before assuming that the topic was “how best to […] overhaul the bank’s lending policies” when its purpose was to listen for the first time in Bank’s history to sexual minority (see Washington Blade April 15 article on the event). Again this misrepresentation of a long overdue meeting is only intended to strengthen the allegation of a “western gay lobby” effort;
  • The second and third paragraphs omit to mention the crucial links between the Bank’s mission of “tackling extreme poverty” and inclusion. This poverty trap is best described in the 1990 Turk Report: “one might wish to describe impoverishment – i.e., the road from relative poverty to extreme poverty […]- as a succession of passive discriminations, or discriminatory omissions in respect of recognized fundamental rights, and the impossibility of securing justice”. In short, for the World Bank to reach its goal to eliminate extreme poverty by 2030, it needs to start raising systematically the difficult topic of discrimination with its clients;
  • The arguments that the focus on Uganda is “capricious” and the focus on “gay rights” is arbitrary are weak. The Economist is not able to point out to any other loan that the World Bank could legitimately have postponed in Nigeria or Ethiopia as it suggests. But more importantly, what seems arbitrary, capricious and misguided is for The Economist to focus on a single sexual minority inclusion effort when the Bank routinely makes similar efforts. In August 2013 as an example, it required Uganda to carry-out a social assessment on the impact on Batwas people (“pygmies”) of a proposed Education project (see IPP656 v3, August 2013). The Economist failed to denounced this “misguided” effort to protect this minority;
  • The argument that “anti-gay laws are [not] the most harmful to the poor” is strange. First of all, the lack of attention to sexual minorities by development organizations has led to such penury of data that nobody can assess the impact of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Secondly, the World Bank has devoted substantial staff and financial resources to address Roma issues, as an example, in the context of its work on poverty and economic development in Eastern Europe. Under The Economist worse discrimination” test, was it also a misuse of resources?
  • As for the “perverse results” of the postponement of the Uganda loan, The Economist did not do its homework. The World Bank has not cancelled but postponed the approval of this additional financing pending an assessment of barriers to quality health services for marginalized populations, interventions and corrective actions needed to overcome those barriers, and due diligence to determination of whether and how the project can achieve its development objectives in the wake of passage of the new legislation. This is far from the drastic cut in its support for the Health Sector in Uganda, The Economist tries to make it appear;
  • Finally, the argument that the World Bank should avoid mentioning the links between inclusion and development in order to remain competitive with Beijing’s conditions free aid is ludicrous. If the Bank was to follow this proposed strategy, it should also eliminate its environmental and social safeguards as well as its procurement rules. Obviously such a “race to the bottom” would be disastrous. But more importantly, the Bank’s strategy is to carve itself out a role in poverty eradication which would make it relevant to developing countries even though their governments might not need its money any more.

In summary, The Economist article reflects nothing more than deep currents of prejudice against sexual minorities even among socially liberal journalists. It also shows how uneducated and ignorant of the global sexual minority plight, Western publications are. It should be read as an encouragement for the Bank to continue its efforts to raise awareness on the disastrous consequences of discrimination against sexual minorities on their development outcomes.

Barney Frank Blasts Uganda Over Anti-Gay Law

Former Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Repost from the Washington Blade

Former Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank on Wednesday blasted the Ugandan government over a law that imposes a life sentence upon anyone found guilty of repeated same-sex sexual acts.

The gay Democrat noted during a hearing the Tom Lantos Commission on Human Rights held on the World Bank and human rights at the U.S. Capitol that he was among the members of Congress who in 2000 supported debt forgiveness for Uganda under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative.

“One of the things that we were told by some leaders of some countries who have engaged in vicious persecution of people who share my sexual orientation [is] ‘stay out of [our] business; you have no right to tell us what to do,’” said Frank. “Uganda was not so angry about gay people intruding in their business when in 2000, along with three of my colleagues, I was one of the leaders in passing a bill that gave them hundreds of millions of dollars in debt relief. We put that through and it was serious debt relief for Uganda.”

Frank also dismissed claims that Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, who signed the so-called Anti-Homosexuality Bill into law in February, and others have made that suggest the West brought homosexuality into Africa.

“The argument that we’re meddling in other people’s business; that’s total hypocrisy,” said the former congressman, referring once again to the 2000 debt cancellation. “People welcomed our help.” Continue Reading 


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