Posts Tagged 'Refugees'

State Department Retains LGBTI Special Envoy: What Does It Mean? Will it Respond to Global Call from LGBT Advocates?

Last week’s Congressional notification that the Trump Administration has decided not to abolish the LGBTI human rights Special Envoy position was an unexpected surprise.

We know there are many dedicated State Department officials who believe passionately that the United States must stand for human rights, including equality and dignity for LGBT individuals everywhere, as a cornerstone of our foreign policy. And recent reports suggest Secretary Tillerson may have raised well-documented cases of LGBT persecution in Chechnya with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov in a letter this summer. Yet, we’ve seen very little indication that Administration leaders care about a comprehensive human rights policy, or LGBT rights, after all:

  • A number of concrete actions – the ban on trans military service, opposition to federal employment protections, and the decision to rescind Obama-era guidance on protections for transgender students in public schools – have been injurious to LGBT citizens at home.
  • “America First” policies have slammed the door on refugees and immigrants, more than 75,000 LGBT DREAMers included – and on the international cooperation needed to stand for fairness and equality abroad.
  • Secretary Tillerson astoundingly has sought to separate democratic “values” from the pursuit of narrower, arguably raw, national “interests” (see his speech here) – turning his back on U.S. diplomatic priorities pursued across the postwar years.
  • President Trump’s expansion of the “Global Gag Rule” to all U.S. global health funding, including global AIDS funding through PEPFAR, undermines our investments in sexual and reproductive health and rights, with equally devastating impact for LGBT individuals who may now be forced to depend on faith-based implementers that are unlikely to be as welcoming or effective in supporting the health and rights of LGBT communities.
  • And the impact of these policy shifts is becoming clear: only last week, the Washington Post traced a sharp uptick in human rights abuses in Egypt to messages that President Trump conveyed in his May meeting with that country’s president.

In this light, how are we to understand retention of the Special Envoy position? Is it mere window dressing? Or will the Administration use the position vigorously to tackle a global crisis in hate crimes, abuse, and legal discrimination against LGBT people?

We are concerned that, in the first seven months of this Administration, the Department’s Special Envoy hasn’t been directed to make a single overseas trip to engage foreign governments on any of the LGBT-related human rights violations so carefully documented in the Department’s annual human rights reports. That concern is only amplified by Secretary Tillerson’s decision (as reflected in the Congressional notification) to co-hat the Special Envoy’s targeted responsibilities with the much larger duties of a Deputy Assistant Secretary (DAS) – a situation that exists now, but that was intended to be temporary, given personnel shifts and shortfalls. That co-hatting may well bury the Special Envoy’s substantive responsibilities under heavy managerial and substantive duties of the kind that any DAS carries.

But a broader question is whether the Administration can carry genuine moral authority to engage, even modestly, on LGBT human rights while its policies at home, and its lack of engagement on human rights abroad, have been so troubling.

The global credibility of the Special Envoy position, then, is directly proportional to the Administration’s record on Constitutional protections at home. It requires the thoughtful and deliberate inclusion of LGBT populations in appropriate bilateral economic, development, and health programs. It too requires regular engagement with other countries on problems impacting LGBT populations, all the while acknowledging that our country’s record in this sphere remains troubled. And it requires swift condemnation of hate crimes and hate groups – not the “blame on both sides” cop-out the President used in his troubling response to far-right violence in Charlottesville this summer.

LGBT advocates from around the world have urged President Trump to honor our country’s commitment to human rights. See their video here. Eight months later, we reiterate their call. Keeping the Special Envoy may be a start – but only if the Administration honors our country’s call to equality with humility, funding, and concrete action.

What to Expect From Romney

What to Expect From RomneyThe Council for Global Equality has urged elected representatives and their staff from both major political parties to stand against LGBT human rights abuse and support LGBT-fair policies around the world.  With the Republican Party now poised to nominate its presidential candidate, we address that appeal to Governor Romney.

Over the past four years, President Obama and his Administration have offered unprecedented support for LGBT human rights abroad:

  • The President has spoken out forcefully against anti-gay legislation pending in Uganda; his Administration has registered U.S. concerns about anti-LGBT discrimination and actions in countries ranging from Senegal, Cameroon, and Malawi to Lithuania, Honduras and Iraq.
  • The State Department’s annual human rights reports now give equal attention to the difficulties faced by LGBT people in every corner of the world.
  • New funding streams have been opened to support LGBT civil society organizations in troubled areas of the world.
  • The plight of LGBT refugees is being addressed.
  • Transgender Americans now can amend passport gender markers with greater dignity, while passport and birth report forms to be filed by gay and lesbian parents have been made more inclusive.
  • Secretary Clinton has spoken directly before an important human rights body about the need for the international community to address the issue of LGBT fairness more squarely.
  • And President Obama has directed all foreign affairs agencies to ensure that LGBT populations are integrated, where appropriate, into our foreign assistance programs and policies.

Through these actions, the Obama Administration has reaffirmed that no minority, in any country, is immune from international standards of human rights protections, and that America will stand for fairness for all people, including LGBT populations, as part of its foreign policy.  In doing so, it has drawn from America’s principles of equality, fairness, and justice – principles that are part of our national conscience and discourse.

We’ve heard little from Governor Romney about human rights – or, indeed, about how he would approach the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people within his prospective human rights policy.  We hope he will speak to these issues in the remaining course of his campaign, and that he will show leadership in ensuring that defending LGBT human and civil rights is a point of national unity, not one of political division.

Protection Concerns and Vulnerabilities for LGBT Iraqis

Protection Concerns and Vulnerabilities for LGBT IraqisBlog Posting Written by: Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project, July 2012

In March of 2012, U.S. and international media outlets reported a renewed wave of violence against LGBT individuals inside Iraq. Since that time, the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) has conducted nearly 50 interviews (and counting) with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Iraqis who fear persecution and/or face serious protection concerns inside Iraq because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. About 45 interviewees identify as gay males and two are transgender persons, assigned female but identifying as male.

The Current Situation on the Ground for Gay Iraqi Men:

Protection concerns and vulnerabilities vary within the gay Iraqi community depending on whether the man is able to, or chooses to, hide any outward manifestation of his sexual orientation. Those that suppress any outward manifestation of their sexuality do not face immediate physical danger. Most are able to maintain jobs and leave their homes without facing serious protection concerns, but cite the psychological aspects of hiding a huge part of their identity as unbearable, and suffer from depression and suicidal thoughts. Additionally, all fear being “outed” and discovered by their families who may become suspicious of their sexual orientation because the men have never been married, or have been married but are now divorced.

Those whose sexual orientation is either known to their families or the general public face severe outward, physical harm, in addition to severe psychological trauma. A small number of the men interviewed were put under house arrest by family members after their sexual identity became known. This often includes severe beatings and intense pressure to marry in order to cover up any scandal. Other men were beaten by family members, mostly fathers and brothers, but then immediately kicked out of their homes with nowhere to go. This forced them to live house-to-house, depending on sympathetic family members or friends. Even those with relatively safe housing do not leave their homes, unless it is absolutely necessary, out of fear of being harassed, found by family members wanting to harm them or picked up by police or security forces. A large number of men have been subjected to severe sexual violence, including rape, from family members, police, security forces, and members of the larger community. Many also reported physical violence at the hands of these perpetrators, and, to a lesser extent, militant groups like Jeash Al-Mahdi or Al-Haqq. Like those who have not been “outed,” a disturbing number of gay men, with whom IRAP spoke, wished they were dead, could change their sexual orientation or be “normal.” Continue reading ‘Protection Concerns and Vulnerabilities for LGBT Iraqis’

Strengthening Protection for LGBT Refugees

Anne Richard, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration

Anne Richard, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration addresses crowd at event marking IDAHO.

Council Chair Mark Bromley moderated a panel at an event hosted by The Council for Global Equality, The Human Rights Campaign, and Human Rights First marking International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO). The event also marked the release of The Road to Safety: Strengthening Protection of LGBTI Refugees in Uganda and Kenya by Human Rights First. Remarks were made by the Honorable Anne Richard, Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration; as well as Eleanor Acer, Director of the Refugee Protection Program at Human Rights First. HRC Legislative Director, Allison Herwitt opened the event. There was also an interactive panel discussion with Duncan Breen – Senior Associate for HRF’s Refugee Protection Program – and Larry Yungk – Senior Resettlement Officer of the UN Refugee Agency.

Click here to watch the full event.

Read Secretary Anne Richards remarks here.


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