Posts Tagged 'LGBT Refugees'

World Refugee Day: #LGBTrefugeeswelcome

World Refugee Day

For World Refugee Day, we stand with the millions of refugees who have been forced to flee their homes to seek safety in distant lands. The current levels of refugee flight and displacement represent the highest levels in modern history. The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) reports that 65.6 million people around the world have been forced from home in recent years, including 22.5 million refugees, most of whom are under 18. In the time that it takes to read this article, conflict and persecution will drive 20 more people into forced displacement.

We know, too, that there are many LGBT refugees who are caught in this massive displacement. Many are fleeing the same conflict and instability that drives their neighbors from their homes, but LGBT refugees are at even greater risk of violence and persecution at every stage in their journey. They often end up in refugee camps or in neighboring countries that are deeply homophobic and transphobic, where they are likely to be violently persecuted because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Tragically, many LGBT refugees who make the excruciating decision to flee for their lives—choosing a dangerously uncertain future over certain death—find themselves even less safe in flight.

Many more refugees are fleeing targeted LGBT violence and persecution in their home countries, especially in the nearly eighty countries that criminalize same-sex relationships and non-conforming gender expression. This LGBT flight deprives emerging economies of dynamic young leaders who should be contributing to the social and economic development of their countries. More tragically, it often deprives the refugees themselves of the security and opportunity they need to build a stable future. And those who chose to stand and fight for their rights may still find the threat of prison and violence overwhelming, and they, too, may need to seek protection abroad one day. In the most violent environments, it may be impossible to survive as someone who is politically “out,” or someone who is proudly identifiable as gender non-conforming. The life expectancy of trans women in parts of Central America is only 35-years.

Today, when the world’s refugees most need our attention and sympathy, we see too many countries, the United States included, shutting borders, building walls and turning boats away from our shores. For those of us who fight for LGBT rights in the United States and abroad, we must recognize the LGBT face of the refugee emergency. This is an LGBT issue. The LGBT community in this country has both the resources and the sensitivities to do more – and those of us who survived years of social rejection, an AIDS pandemic and cycles of political vilification in this country should celebrate that remarkable human drive for authentic self-preservation, which has propelled so many of us to seek safety and a chosen community away from our own small towns or places of birth. Most LGBT refugees continue to live in fear even after fleeing their country of nationality. For them, resettlement to countries like the United States represents their only chance of living in safety. We should welcome LGBT refugees.

World Refugee Day

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U.N. Information on World Refugee Day

US MAP

J Street’s World Refugee Day U. S. Event Map

White House Rally 

 

The Place of Human Rights

The Place of Human RightsAnother new year. Another chance to put things right.

For the Council for Global Equality, that means elevating the place of human rights – including those of LGBT, intersex and other vulnerable minorities – in America’s foreign policy.

The year of 2015 brought incredible progress on LGBT rights around the world. Marriage equality was won here in the United States as well as in Mexico and Ireland; Malta passed the world’s most protective law for transgender and intersex citizens; and Mozambique got rid of its colonial-era anti-sodomy law once and for all.

Yet challenges and dangers continue to confront LGBT people. ISIS continues to hunt down and kill suspected LGBT individuals in its territory. Refugees fleeing persecution last year reached a new post-World War II high, with LGBT refugees among the most vulnerable of them. And from Russia to Egypt, a broad array of countries continue to deny rights to their own LGBT citizens while leading the charge at the United Nations to deny human rights to LGBT individuals everywhere.

We enter the last full year of the Obama Administration with pride and respect for what our country has helped accomplish to ensure that LGBT people are no longer excluded from universal human rights protections. A White House conference last year identified new opportunities for our embassies to respond to escalating violence against LGBT persons globally. A new U.S. Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons is mobilizing diplomatic efforts to challenge LGBT human rights violations and to build alliances in the quest for equality. And last year, the Administration sought to build a case for global support for LGBT refugees fleeing targeted persecution, including through the first-ever briefing on that topic for the UN Security Council in August.

Perhaps most important, the Obama Administration last year leveraged our public diplomacy and development tools as never before to promote citizen exchanges, highlight the voices and messages of local LGBT leaders and help fund LGBT organizations to promote global equality. The President himself spoke in support of LGBT rights in many of his travels abroad. These efforts, amplified by our investments in educational and development opportunities through USAID and the State Department’s growing Global Equality Fund, bear witness to the Obama Administration’s unprecedented commitment to equality for LGBT individuals everywhere.

If we are to hold other governments accountable for how they honor and safeguard the rights of their LGBT citizens, we must continue to push our own towards even greater consistency and impactful actions. Over the next two weeks, we will set forth the expectations we hold of our own government in this regard.

The steps that are – or aren’t – taken in 2016 will etch the final and most compelling stories of this Administration’s human rights legacy. Then it will be up to us, the human rights community, to hold the next Administration accountable to this country’s proud tradition of standing up for universal human rights at every turn.

Out of Harm’s Way

Repost from The Advocate

NEARLY SIX MONTHS AGO, the White House unveiled a global blueprint for promoting and protecting the rights of LGBT individuals, countless numbers of whom live in countries where they are imprisoned, blackmailed, and in places like Iraq, sometimes crushed to death with cement blocks.

The State Department’s 2011 Human Rights Report, released last week, provides a grim, if incomplete, catalog of such atrocities. A gay and transgender resource center in Cape Town, South Africa, documented about 10 cases per week of lesbians targeted with brutal sexual assault, often referred to as “corrective rape.” Violence and extortion at the hands of police officers is pervasive in El Salvador, Turkey, Indonesia, and Cote d’Ivoire. National leaders denounce homosexuality as “the divorce of humanity from its integrity” (Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad) and “strange behavior that even God will not tolerate” (Gambian president Yahya Jammeh). And for country after country, the sentence “There were no known LGBT organizations” appears throughout the report like a rasping chorus. Continue Reading

Related Post: Widespread Pattern of Abuses Against LGBT People Worldwide

UNHCR Roundtable on Asylum-Seekers and Refugees Seeking Protection on Account of Their Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

Special Assistant Elizabeth Drew, U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration
Washington, DC, October 1, 2010

Thank you. It’s an honor to be here, participating in such a dynamic discussion on this critical issue. I also want to recognize the leadership of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for hosting this roundtable and commend the Agency’s ongoing efforts to enhance protection for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) refugees and asylum seekers.

The Obama Administration has made clear that our comprehensive human rights agenda includes the elimination of violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The U.S. recently joined the United Nations General Assembly core group on LGBT issues, and earlier this month the U.S. co-sponsored the high-level LGBT panel at the UN Human Rights Council. We’re very fortunate to have Secretary Clinton leading the Department of State in elevating our human rights dialogues with foreign governments and advancing public diplomacy to protect the rights of LGBT individuals. We are also leading by example, extending benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees, making it easier for transgender Americans to amend their passports, and including gender identity along with sexual orientation in the State Department Equal Employee Opportunity Statement. Continue reading on state.gov

Read more: UNHCR urges tolerance of displaced people persecuted for their sexuality

Getting the Best of Both Worlds – Progress on Global LGBT Issues

State Dept prior to Sec. Clinton's speech from left to right: Sybille Nyeck, Gift Trapence, Julius Kaagwa, Cary Alan Johnson, and Mark Bromley photo: Bronwynne Pereira

It was hard to keep a dry eye when Secretary of State Clinton introduced four LGBT activists from Uganda, Malawi, Cameroon, and South Africa to a packed auditorium at the State Department as part of her Pride address to the foreign service.  It was a highlight in the long struggle for equality for LGBT people to have the Secretary of State declare, “Gay rights are human rights and human rights are gay rights – once and for all!”  Human rights defender Gift Trapence of Malawi expressed afterwards how powerful it was to have the Secretary of State of the United States look him in the eye with respect, since he is still considered a pariah at home because of his work on behalf of LGBT Malawians.

Amanda Cary (AJWS), Cary Alan Johnson (IGLHRC), Mark Bromley (CGE), Gift Trapence (CEDEP - Malawi), Julius Kaagwa (SIPD - Uganda), Sybille Nyeck (Cameroon), Julie Dorf (CGE), Stephanie DiBello (HRF), Bronwynne Periera (South Africa). This photo was taken prior to the meeting with the National Security Council staff. photo: Bronwynne Pereira

The Secretary announced a number of policy advancements, including the inclusion of gender identity in the employment policies at State, as well as the changes to passport procedures for transgender Americans. She strongly encouraged the regional bureaus to work harder on integrating LGBT issues into their work plans, and into public diplomacy programs. She also announced new attentiveness to the plight of LGBT refugees. But most importantly, she spoke with an ease and genuineness about sexual orientation and gender identity issues and about LGBT people and culture that was the most meaningful take-away from the speech.

Julius Kaagwa photo:Bronwynne Pereira

That same week, the four activists and organizational members of the Council—IGLHRC, OSI, AJWS, and Human Rights First—met with the Africa Bureau at the State Department,held another standing-room only briefing for staffers in Congress, and met with officials from the National Security team at the White House. The White House is also deepening its response to the human rights of LGBT people globally. During our meeting there, Julius Kaagwa of Uganda thanked the White House staff for the President’s public and behind-the-scenes interventions on the anti-gay law that was pending in Uganda just months ago.

For those of us in the United States who have been working on the international human rights of LGBT people, last week’s events were satisfying because we have never seen the U.S. government respond in that way. We have the best of both worlds, with Barack Obama in the White House and Hillary Clinton as our Secretary of State. It is up to us to ensure that we make the very best use of these two incredible LGBT allies who are now in powerful positions that impact the real lives of LGBT people around the world.


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