Posts Tagged 'Barack Obama'

Mark Bromley Testifies Before the U.S. Congress

Mark Bromley Testifies at Foreign Affairs Committee Hearing on Global Human Rights

Council Chair Mark Bromley testified before the U.S. Congress in a hearing focused on “Human Rights Under Siege Worldwide.”  The hearing was convened on the one-month anniversary of the tragic massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, and it was the first time that the foreign affairs committee had ever invited a witness to speak to global human rights trends impacting LGBT individuals.  He testified that “targeted LGBT violence, and anti-LGBT propaganda in general, challenge fundamental democratic values and pluralistic societies everywhere.”  He concluded by noting that “countries that turn on their own LGBT citizens, or that scapegoat their LGBT citizens to distract from broader political or economic failings, are equally likely to turn on other ethnic or religious minorities and on human rights and democracy groups writ large.

You can watch the testimony here and read the statement for the record here.

Remarks by Ambassador Samantha Power at the White House Dialogue on Global LGBT Human Rights

Ambassador Samantha Power
U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
Washington, DC
June 29, 2016

It’s amazing to be here and to be with all of you. This is a really important thing to do, particularly in light of recent events, but anyway, to step back, and to look back at what has been achieved in this last five years. From the diplomatic corps representatives who are here, to civil society representatives – each of you have played a really critical role in bringing us to where we are today. I’m only going to speak very briefly, but do want to pull a few of the highlights out of the last five years and look at the legacy of the Presidential Memorandum, which is itself just a symptom of the President’s leadership.

Five years ago, when I was in the position occupied brilliantly now by Steve Pomper, I had the privilege, along with Ambassador David Pressman, who you will hear from a little bit later, of helping President Obama shepherd this historic LGBT memorandum through the U.S. government. When he signed the Presidential Memorandum – I remember as if it was yesterday – the response inside the government, as well as outside the government, was immediate. And in particular, I will never forget the outpouring of emotion from people around the United States – again, whether inside or outside the government – but also around the world, when they heard that LGBTI rights was being embedded, as Josh put it, into the DNA of the U.S. government.

I don’t know why it resonates so much more when one sees one’s own issue in the kind of sterile bureaucratese that is the lifeblood of government, but, you know, if every other issue that is a priority lives in those documents and in those directives, why not LGBTI rights? And sure enough, putting it into that form and having that directive go out to all the agencies and departments that are part of the U.S. government, it’s game-changing. It means it’s there forever; it means someone has to take it away. And it really was a historic step that the President took, and one of the many reasons I’m incredibly proud to get to work for him and to represent him.

So the idea that there’s this memorandum that dedicates the U.S. government and our foreign policies, a matter of national interest, to fighting the criminalization of LGBTI status; to directing significant resources to empowering LGBTI groups abroad; to responding swiftly and meaningfully when governments have repressed LGBTI rights. These are words on a page, but they spring off the page when they affect – as Josh, again, put it – real people.

On the conference call that we convened to walk people through the components of this Presidential Memorandum – which I should say was issued the same day Secretary Clinton gave her amazing speech in Geneva, where you could’ve – I wasn’t there, but I gather – could’ve heard a pin drop when she said “LGBTI rights are human rights; human rights are LGBTI rights and all universal rights.” We convened a conference call, and what I remember most about that call was one woman, describing her life as a lesbian woman with her partner, deciding where she could travel with her children abroad, and knowing her whole life that there were “No Go Zones” that were sort of off-limits – parts of the map that may as well not have been on the map for the purposes of her and her children and her partner. And she said, “Suddenly with this memorandum – even though we’re so far from that day – it’s the first time I see my government announcing to the world that its ambition is that there will be no ‘No Go Zones’ for me and my family. And because if these rights were universal rights, it would be so weird! We would actually never have to have that thought, that voice in the back of our heads, of thinking, you know, is that a place that is going to be friendly to me? Is it going to be hostile to me? Is it going to be criminal to love in the way that I can love in my home?” And, you know, as someone who hasn’t had to have that voice in her head, it really, really struck me what universality actually means and what a denial of universality means concretely for people who don’t – who can’t experience and don’t see their rights fully realized.

So this Presidential Memorandum sets out to end the “No Go Zones” and to expand enjoyment of rights in a deep, deep way. We have been implementing it, also in a deep way. The progress abroad, of course, is not like what we have had the amazing fortune of witnessing or experiencing here in this room. In some ways, some of the setbacks abroad I feel are a reaction in a way to some of the progress that has been made here, for all of the challenges that lie ahead even within our own borders. But even abroad we are making headway, and I can see it, as someone who worked here at the White House on these issues for four years, and now up in New York for three years. It’s different, it’s really different pushing this agenda internationally.

Five years ago, I would never have foreseen being able to hold a UN Security Council meeting – a mere meeting – on the topic of violence against LGBTI persons. And yet on August 24, 2015, we and Chile co-sponsored this meeting. Also, lots of countries in the UN family – even those who aren’t great on these issues at home – they showed up. And they heard one of the most powerful presentations any of them will ever hear: Subhi Nahas sharing his story of fleeing his home in Syria after being threatened by ISIL and even threatened by his own family. Subhi was recently honored as a Logo Trailblazer and as one of the Grand Marshals of New York City’s 2016 Pride March.

But I compared to that day – I’m not sure which is more amazing, to actually be speaking in front of the world about the need to change norms and implement human rights standards equally, without prejudice to whom we are applying them to, versus hanging out with Bill de Blasio and the other Pride March. But Subhi did a tremendous job. And the way we will change policy is we will change hearts and minds. And that is the order in which we are progressing in New York.

Five years ago, the United Nations did not even think about granting benefits to the families of same-sex UN employees. But a courageous UN Secretary-General put forward a UN bulletin granting those benefits. And I’m very proud of the fact that last year, the United States and a group of countries committed to non-discrimination and equality were able to thwart a very spirited Russian effort to force the Secretary-General to pull back his directive actually securing same-sex benefits – benefits for same-sex couples. So, that was another one that if you look at the 193 countries in the UN and the policies they have at home, it was not obvious that we were going to be able to sustain support for the Secretary-General’s important directive. But because – as we always say on my team – we want it more, and because we had such great support from civil society, the Russians were thwarted in a very, very lopsided vote, in fact, and were unable to defy the will of the Secretary-General.

Five years ago, one could not have dreamed that we would end up, in any circumstance, able to secure a Security Council condemnation of the targeting of people on the basis of sexual orientation. But out of the horrific Orlando attack and the heartbreak of that, we knew that we had to do everything in our power to try to unite a very, very divided Security Council. And on Monday, June 13, for the first time in the UN’s 70-year history, the Security Council denounced violence targeting people “as a result of their sexual orientation.” Even countries like Russia and Egypt did not block this effort.

And five years ago, I would never have imagined that we would be able to bring a diverse, regionally cross-cutting group of UN ambassadors to Stonewall for a monumental meeting of a new network that we are part of in New York, called the LGBT Core Group. And this was just an amazing meeting, where you had countries from Asia, Latin America, Europe – not yet Africa – but sitting around the table and talking about redoubling our efforts to push this agenda around the world. The UN is just a venue; it’s a forum – we shouldn’t confuse forum with substance. But if we can work it at the center and then get the change out into the capillaries, through the governments and their representatives and their citizens, we will turn the tide against discrimination internationally.

So we have come a long way in these five years, but the next five years start today. And I think it is invigorating that the Obama Administration – and thanks hugely to the leadership of Steve Pomper and Ambassador Rice – are not letting up in our efforts to promote LGBTI rights internationally.

I think we need to work very concretely to try to get more countries, more governments, to issue directives along the lines that President Obama had the foresight to issue five years ago. I will have the privilege of attending, with Special Envoy Berry, the Global LGBTI International Conference in Montevideo, Uruguay on July 13. And there, ministers and civil society activists from around the world will discuss how we can better promote LGBTI rights and inject, again, this agenda into various countries’ foreign policy agenda, but also into inclusive development. And I hope that any of the governments represented here will send ministers to that meeting. We are seeking to secure the highest level of representation possible.

I want to end just on a sobering note, and the reminder that for all of this progress – some of it in form, a lot also in substance – more than 70 countries still criminalize same-sex relationships, legislators continue to pass discriminatory laws, and LGBTI civil society actors face harassment and discrimination. And we need a global coalition of diverse voices, but also of united voices, standing up against hatred. We should all be able to love openly without hiding in the shadows. Nobody should ever have to have that voice in their head. We’ve got to eliminate the “No Go Zones” once and for all.

And I want to thank you, really and truly, for all of your work in this regard. We wouldn’t be here without you. And we won’t get where we need to get going forward unless we stay united. So I thank you, and I thank you very much for having me.

Diversity In All of its Forms is a Shared Civic Value

Last weekend’s brutal massacre at an LGBT nightclub in Orlando is a stunning reminder that homophobic hatred continues to scar both our community and our country. Our hearts go out to the victims of this rampage, as well as to their families and friends. We acknowledge and share their grief.

In our work, the Council for Global Equality has been deeply impressed by the resilience of LGBT communities around the world. We are profoundly touched by the expressions of sadness and solidarity from these communities. Their love and support stand in stark contrast to the hatred that fueled this tragedy. The breadth of supportive government statements also heartens us, from countries that include Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates.

From this massacre, no doubt there will be calls for greater gun control, mental health awareness, and a strengthened fight against ISIS and all extremism. We strongly support these calls. But we are struck, too, by the cultural divide over the dignity and worth of LGBT people that this attack calls to mind. Diversity in all of its forms is a shared civic value, after all – a quality essential to our national fabric, and one that must be taught and understood more broadly in this country, even after – or maybe because of – the significant legal advances that the LGBT community has achieved in recent years.

The Obama Administration has done much to integrate LGBT human rights into our country’s overall human rights policy. We urge that these efforts be redoubled, with a view to helping all people understand that the rights of any minority group cannot be lower than those of the country as a whole.

That lesson begins at home. The call by some for a ban on Muslims entering our country is wholly at odds with the founding values of our country, and with the dignity and respect we seek from others. That exclusionary vision also runs counter to the Council’s mission, which is to build bridges across cultural divides.

Yesterday’s UN Security Council statement on Orlando’s tragedy – OUR tragedy – is an important and groundbreaking step in expressing the sadness of the international community at a tragedy that impacts not only LGBT people, but how the world embraces human rights. That, in fact, is a precious learning from Sunday’s tragic loss of life.

 

Related Content: After Orlando, Gay Rights Moves off Diplomatic Back Burner (NYT)

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

 

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

Employee Plus One: Marriage and the War for Talent

Michael Guest, The Council for Global EqualityBy Michael Guest, Senior Advisor, The Council for Global Equality, as published in The Foreign Service Journal

In 2001, I was sworn in as our country’s first Senate-confirmed, openly gay ambassador. Six years later, I pulled the plug on my Foreign Service career, in protest of the State Department’s refusal to remedy policies that discriminated against gay and lesbian Foreign Service families stationed abroad.

Those twin milestones seem like ancient history now. Today partnered gay and lesbian employees are covered by the same transfer, housing, training and other support policies their straight married colleagues have long enjoyed. The policy changes pioneered at State have become a template for similar accommodations across the federal foreign affairs agency community.

In addition, six openly gay ambassadors, one a career officer, have been tapped by the Obama administration to serve our country. A new special envoy position has been created to strengthen how we integrate lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues into our broader human rights policy goals.

Yet these appointments are less remarkable than the paucity of organized public or congressional opposition to the notion that LGBT human rights matter, or that a gay person can represent our country abroad. Continue Reading.


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