Posts Tagged 'ILGA Europe'

Advancing the Human Rights of LGBT Persons in Europe and Beyond

Advancing the Human Rights of LGBT Persons in Europe and BeyondRepost from DipNote 
by Uzra Zeya, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor

I was honored to represent the United States government at the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) Europe’s Annual Conference, held in Zagreb, Croatia yesterday.  Before an audience of more than 250 activists from 45 countries across Europe, I affirmed the strong U.S. commitment to advance the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons in Europe and beyond.  While noting some positive developments in Europe, such as anti-discrimination and hate crime measures, I also expressed deep concern about negative trends in a number of countries in the region. The Anti-Gay Propaganda law in Russia, for example, has led to an increase in harassment and violence targeting LGBT persons.  Similar laws have been proposed or are being discussed in other European countries. And we heard at ILGA how such laws validate discrimination and lead to an increase in violence and intimidation.

On the margins of this important gathering, I also met with Croatian government and EU officials as well as civil society organizations from Croatia and elsewhere in Europe.  Those officials included Stavros Lambrinidis, the EU Special Representative for Human Rights, and Aurel Ciobanu-Dordea, Director for Equality in the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Justice, who both joined me in delivering keynote remarks.

In a roundtable discussion with LGBT advocates from across Europe, I heard firsthand about the human rights challenges facing LGBT persons, including legal difficulties in changing gender markers on official documents for transgender persons, violence and harassment targeting LGBT persons, particularly around Pride marches, and the pressing need to ensure societies at large become more tolerant and inclusive of LGBT persons and their families.  This sobering reality will inform the work of the Department as it continues to use diplomacy and foreign assistance to increase human rights protection for LGBT persons. Continue Reading.

Protecting and Promoting LGBT Rights in Europe

Uzra Zeya, Acting Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and LaborRemarks by Uzra Zeya
Acting Assistant Secretary
Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
ILGA-Europe Annual Conference 2013
Zagreb, Croatia
October 24, 2013

First, thank you very much Evelyne and to ILGA Europe for including me in this panel. I am so glad to be here.

In response to your question, the most important thing to understand about the work of the U.S. government is that protecting and promoting the human rights of all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, is a foreign policy priority. That’s why I am here in Zagreb to deliver this message personally. The fundamental principle that guides our LGBT work is that the human rights of LGBT persons are not different than or separate from the human rights of everyone else. All people deserve to be treated with dignity no matter who they are or who they love.

Looking across the region over 2013, there is a lot to be excited about. Both France and the U.K. have legalized same sex marriage and more countries are taking steps to make sure that LGBT persons can make the choices that work for them and their families. It is also encouraging to see new anti-discrimination and hate crimes legislation specifically including sexual orientation and gender identity as protected categories.

But the United States remains extremely concerned about negative trends in a number of countries. The anti-gay propaganda law in Russia and the proposed law to strip gay parents of their parental rights are alarming. Laws, even when it is unclear how they will be enforced, are incredibly important. They are a statement of a country’s values and they have a teaching effect. Laws that validate discrimination, as we have seen in Russia, can lead to an increase in violence and harassment. This is particularly true when authorities don’t act to protect all of their citizens and when they fail to investigate and prosecute crimes committed by or against particular groups.

I’ve singled out Russia but, as you all know, it is not the only place where there were disturbing events in 2013. We saw too many Pride and IDAHO marches confronted by counter-protestors, or, as just happened in Serbia, canceled altogether because of the threat of violence. Throughout Europe, LGBT persons continue to be harassed and discriminated against in employment, housing, education, and many other areas of public life.

There is clearly work to be done. In the United States, we pursue this work guided by a Presidential Memorandum which lays out five main lines of effort: Decriminalization of LGBT status and conduct, protection of LGBT refugees and asylum seekers, foreign assistance to protect human rights, swift response to violence against LGBT persons, and engaging international organizations to fight LGBT discrimination.

We raise the human rights of LGBT persons in our diplomatic engagement at all levels – from the President, to Secretary Kerry, to our Ambassadors and officers at post and in Washington. Our Ambassadors and officers march proudly in Pride celebrations. Advancing equality for LGBT persons isn’t just the right thing to do; it is fundamental to advancing democracy and human rights. As societies become more inclusive, they become better partners within the global community, joined together by common values and common interests.

The U.S. also knows that change on the ground comes from within. At the State Department, same-sex partners and spouses at overseas missions enjoy the same benefits allowed by law as all our employees’ families. We’ve included a category for same-sex partners in our personnel system. It is now easier for transgender Americans to change the gender on their passport. And we’ve stated unequivocally that we do not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

We regularly engage with and support civil society organizations to ensure our work “does no harm” and supports long-term change. In December 2011, then-Secretary Clinton launched the Global Equality Fund to support civil society advocates working to strengthen the human rights of LGBT persons. The United States has partnered with eight-like minded governments – France, Germany, Norway, the Netherlands, Finland, Iceland, Sweden, and Denmark – as well several foundations to raise and allocate more than $7 million dollars for projects in over 50 countries. The Fund provides emergency legal, medical, and relocation assistance to LGBT individuals and activists; capacity building programs to civil society organizations; and, through our embassy small grants programs, short-term funding to nascent LGBT organizations. This year, we’re excited about the Fund’s focus to increase the capacity of transgender organizations in Europe to document and respond to incidents of violence targeting transgender people.

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